Sports clubs team up to boost kōkako

Dave O’Keeffe (left), Oliver (athlete, footballer and keen cyclist), Sean Stringfellow and Clare St Pierre outside the new mural at Te Awamutu Stadium on Armstrong Ave.
Photo / Shutter Media NZ
24 Feb

Te Awamutu AFC, Te Awamutu Athletics and Te Awamutu Cycling all use the Stadium on Armstrong Ave as their base and now there’s a new connection — kokāko and the work volunteers are doing on Mt Pirongia through the Pirongia Te Aroaro O Kahu Restoration Society. Six months ago an opportunity through Creative New Zealand alongside Waipā District Council presented itself and Te Awamutu AFC’s Sean “Stringy” Stringfellow saw this as a chance to beautify a well-used area of town. He jumped onto a Zoom call with about 20 Creative New Zealand members as well as Marcus Gower from the Waipā District Council and was awarded the funding. A kōkako (endangered forest birds which are endemic to New Zealand) mural was presented to his committee which supported it being painted on the front wall, donated by J.A. Russell and family in 1964. Kōkako relate to the three sports operating in or through the site, just quietly chipping away at survival with help from key people, it is said that if you hear its call it will stay with you for the rest of your life. The Pirongia Te Aroaro O Kahu Restoration Society were contacted and immediately loved the idea of the project. Local artist Jack Kirwan was brought in for the job last weekend and it is hoped that the artwork adds not only a talking point at the site but generates some interest in the kōkako society. Conversation has already moved to adding the bat as a topic for this year. Stringfellow’s final comment was that he hopes the council groups would look at using art to beautify spaces around town, without getting too political, he says “the redoubt in Kihikihi is a classic example”. “They are going to spend about $250,000 removing something that for $10,000 could have stories of Ngāti Maniapoto drawn on it.” Dave O’Keeffe, who has been involved in athletics and sports around the town for more than 12 years, has always thought creativity in the town creates positive conversation and the changes he has seen in the town of late are great and he hopes they continue. “Sport is like the river flowing through the town; it’s a lifeline for our community and it’s awesome how all three users have been connected through a river-like track with kōkako. In a day and age where technology is everywhere we are quick to forget to stretch,” he says. “This project and the opportunity it has presented, especially in a week where athletics move into their club champs and cycling will be down here for the coming weeks, is fantastic. I can’t wait to hear the feedback from the community and engage conversation about kōkako”. Chairwoman of the restoration society Clare St Pierre was stoked to have its flagship species featured at the Te Awamutu Stadium. “When Stringy told me about the kōkako mural, I thought what a cool species for the sports clubs to adopt. “Kōkako are known for their long legs which gives them lots of speed on the ground and when they’re in the trees, they use exceptional footwork for laddering up and down the branches. “Lastly, Māori oral traditions have the kōkako helping Maui in his quest to slow down the sun by filling its blue wattles with water. So it’s a great role model for making sure everyone stays hydrated. “We hope one day kōkako will be seen in Te Awamutu again, especially through our involvement with the ecological corridor project between Maungatautari and Pirongia called Taiea te Taiao.” The football club is also running a raffle until the end of March to raise funds for Kōkako Society. Head to their Facebook page or email if you would like to be in to win a spa pack and calendar

PHOTO CREDIT: Shutter Media