School reboots hangi tradition

Pit crew . . . Green Island School pupils watch Manawa Enterprises teachers Kopua Waititi and Ana Pene prepare to lift a hangi in the school grounds last week. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

A “yummy” tradition returned to Green Island School last week.

Pupils were served food cooked in a hangi, a traditional Maori pit oven, dug in school grounds on Monday, June 25.

Manawa Enterprises teachers and partners Kopua Waititi and Ana Pene, of Sunnyvale, who tutor kapa haka and te reo in the school, cooked the hangi for about 170 pupils and 30 adults.

Miss Pene said she was a former pupil of the school and her father Boyd Pene cooked a hangi in the school 23 years ago.

Cooking the hangi brought back “nice” memories.

School principal Steve Hayward said nearly 40 pupils arrived at school before 5am to watch iron be heated in a large fire, dragged into a pit with cages of food and covered with wet sacks and soil.

The food was dug from the pit about 1pm and served in the school hall.

Green Island School pupils Kepha Vahua (left) and Tristen Pickering (both 8) get set to eat a hangi meal. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

A hangi used to be cooked in the school about every five years, but the tradition stopped 23 years ago.

The school had been wanting to restart the tradition but it lacked people with the expertise, he said.

The “sharing of kai” was a way to celebrate Matariki – the Maori New Year.

The hangi was provided to pupils free of charge because people gave food, money and time, he said.

Plumber Peter Wright, who had worked at the school, gave half a sheep, a 10kg trumpeter fish and 30kg of chicken drumsticks, he said.

Mr Hayward expected the “fantastic” hangi to be a regular event.

Pupil Kairi Vehikite (5) said it was her first hangi and she enjoyed the lamb the most.

“It’s so yum.”