New Life for Kumutoto Field
September 01, 2023 | Stories

By Niki Partsch

Overseen by the curious and beady eyes of our native tīwaiwaka, tūī and kākā, a tiny orchard of fruit trees is taking root near the ancient waterway of Kumutoto in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington. 

TE WHANGANUI-A-TARA WELLINGTON: The recent blessing and orchard planting on Kumutoto field was attended by Wellington City Council officials, volunteers and guests including our Pou Rārangi Kōrero Dennis Ngawhare. 

The field is so named because of its proximity to the ancient Kumutoto stream which runs underground from an area above Victoria University Wellington - Te Herenga Waka. It then briefly surfaces into the open air in the self-carved gully just before the Kumutoto field. From here the stream is again culverted and runs along parallel with The Terrace to Woodward Street, and beneath Lambton Quay where it finally exits into Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington Harbour at a popular waterfront location now named Kumutoto Plaza, the location indicated by Nga Kina created by Michel Tuffery MNZM. 

Community garden opening. Left to right: Milan Magan, Dennis Ngawhare, Kyle Smythe (Miramar prison garden) and Mike Ross (head of Māori studies at Te Herenga Waka), courtesy of Hini and Sudha Magan.

Kumutoto Stream was the first of many streams in Wellington to be culverted in the late 1880s to make way for city development. Prior to this the large, free-flowing, abundant river was part of everyday life for whānau at Kumutoto Pā and likely an important food and irrigation source. There have been efforts in recent decades to ‘resurface’ this significant underground waterway through art installations, informative signage and community initiatives. 

Planting fruit trees for the community was the idea of Milan Magan who says, “The Kumutoto Community Orchard is intended to provide free fruit and nuts for future generations of Wellingtonians and will be a sister garden to Te Māramatanga Community Garden above the southern entrance to the Terrace Tunnel.” 

The grassed area of Kumutoto field sits above the northern end of the Terrace Tunnel next to the Kumutoto native forest, part of the city’s green belt. This green space is home to a robust feathered population who may also benefit from the sweet orchard fruits in the late summer months. 

The orchard currently comprises four feijoas trees, one lemon and one hybrid peach/nectarine tree. All were donated by the Miramar Prison Garden. Milan hopes that more trees can be added in future.

Ngawhare, Dennis
Kumutoto Stream
Partsch, Niki (author)

Niki Partsch | Kaitohutohu Whanake - Māori Heritage Advisor
Stay up to date with Heritage this month