Reviews — Poised in the Present Weekend by Diane, Rona, and Lucy

Diane Johnstone

February 14th 2020, Valentines Day for many, saw our whanau of four traveling to the wonderful Wangapeka for a very heartfelt and community centred retreat – “Poised in the Present.”

Expertly crafted by the 2020 Year of Clear Vision Team along with special guest Rob McGowan, one of the foremost authorities on rongoā Māori, 35 + people gathered for an incredible weekend that continues to flow and unfold in unexpected and delightful ways. Many voices were heard within nourishing sharing circles and a very deep connection to the land was quickly established as we walked the whenua together. Rob introduced us to several medicinal plants which were then prepared in the Wangapeka kitchen and shared with all who were present. Unexpectedly delicious!

The Wangapeka community was gifted the story of “Tiwaiwaka”. In essence: healing the spirit of the land and the much needed reminder of “mahi tahi” – working as one. Rich storytelling, deep listening and new connections made with both each other and this incredible earth created a very special weekend that our whanau will long remember.

Rona Spencer

‘Poised in the Present’ was the title of a special 20/20 weekend of reflection at Wangapeka which filled all the accommodation with longtime members and some newcomers too. 

Our guest teacher was Rob McGowan, pakeha born but also known as Pa Ropata.  

He is a kamatua and respected teacher of Maori Herbal Medicine  (Rongoa Maori). He lives on land near Tauranga and travels to be with diverse groups who want to learn something of the Maori knowledge of and respect for Earth and Mother Nature. He speaks Te Reo or English as appropriate and he reminds us how we all need to work, learn and share together through this critical time of imbalance and crisis. 

He brought his small book of wisdom that tells the message he was sharing with us. The work is named Tiwaiwaka, fantail, the messenger. After the first morning talk he took us on a short walk to look at some of the indigenous trees and shrubs and explained some of their medicinal properties. Leaves were picked from two of the shrubs and simple decoctions prepared from each for us to taste later. There were several in our group who study and practise herbal medicine so they bought copies of his other book about the properties and preparation of indigenous plants. This knowledge will be made available at the Centre as ‘first aid’ remedies.
In the Tiwaiwaka afterword Rob writes “Wisdom is really the fruit of interchange between people, people together finding understanding through being and searching together.”

This is the message that Bonni heard from him last year and which prompted her to invite him to Wangapeka during this ‘2020 Year of Clear Vision’. At the end of each day we formed one large silent circle around the Hall to listen to each one’s response to their experience. That was precious too.


My feelings about the weekend spent at the Wangapeka weekend are the following:

Gratitude and wonder at the chance to hear Rob McGowan speak. A wonderful but hard lesson given by a supremely well informed, inspired man of true humility

A yearning feeling, bordering on exclusion, that I cannot be a “regular” at the Wangapeka, because of dividing my year between the Netherlands and New Zealand… Yet an awakening feeling of Community, to be taken and experienced wherever I am. Tribe is where the heart is, I have discovered.

Because of living not only locally, I longed for more guidance of how to face the radical changes to come elswewhere than in the Wangapeka. I got some answers, for which I am grateful.

Thank you so much!