1863 map of Pōkeno showing the town and land to be auctioned. Source: Auckland Council.
During the 1990s, the township of Pōkeno was held up as an example of a declining rural Aotearoa New Zealand. By-passed from the national state highway, it lost its status as a service hub and drastic measures were introduced to revitalise the town, including renaming the town “Jenniferann.com”. Pōkeno has since undergone an unlikely transformation, with foreign investment and its location within an extended Auckland commuter zone meaning that the township has grown exponentially.
Building Better Thriving Regions researchers John Ryks, Jonathan Kilgour, Jesse Whitehead, Amy Whetu, and James Whetu have recently published a paper in the New Zealand Geographer examining the recent transformation of Pōkeno, including the historical development of the town, and uncover what has been missing in discussions about Pōkeno’s reinvention and revitalisation, namely, the place of mana whenua and Māori.
The researchers write that early European settlement and modern day planning and development have excluded mana whenua from Pōkeno and that there are lessons here for other towns in regional Aotearoa New Zealand for a different approach.
The article describes “a settlement that has always had great importance to mana whenua but that this importance has been rendered invisible. As a case study, Pōkeno is an example of the type of change and transformation occurring across many of Aotearoa New Zealand’s regional towns” and highlights the ways that Māori are misrepresented and underrepresented in the making of places.
Read the report:
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