Living memorial to be planted in remembrance of Hastings kaumātua Des Ratima, (ONZM). Photo / Paul Taylor
A memorial of native trees, shrubs and flax has been planned to honor and celebrate the life of Desma Kemp Ratima, known to most as Des.
The kaumātua of Hastings dedicated his life to helping others and improving his community before passing away aged 69 in August 2021.
Ratima took pride in helping others and achieved great things in her life; in 2018, he was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit for his service to Maori and served in the military for nearly two decades.
Now the community he helped has organized a living memorial to keep the memory of the kind kaumātua alive.
Initiated by Biodiversity Hawke’s Bay, the project will be partly funded by the Matariki Tu Rākau program of the Te Uru Rākau NZ Forest Service.
Local organizations will also support including; Hastings District Council, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, QEII Trust, environmental contractor Habitat BPM and local forest restoration company Fresh Air Forests.
A prominent site bordering Te Karamū Stream and Te Ara Kahikatea to the west of Whakatu was chosen by Ratima’s wife, Evelyn, for the memorial.
The chosen plants will form blocks of color, including white kākābeak and kōwhai, to surround an existing louse designed by artist Chris Bryant.
Toi and kahikatea, dominant mixed plantings and mountain flax, will complete the project, providing an overall effect that matches the plantings of nearby Hawea Historic Park.
Evelyn explained that he would have “loved” the living memorial.
“He was very passionate about planting natives,” she said.
A community event to plant the site is planned for mid-2023, and there will be a warm welcome to anyone willing to help.
Biodiversity Hawke’s Bay Executive Director Debbie Monahan welcomed the funding received for the project, noting that a living memorial was a fitting way to honor Ratima, a founding member of Biodiversity Hawke’s Bay.
“Des’ reputation and his life’s work have touched so many people, which means many people and organizations are ready to help,” Monahan said.
Biodiversity Hawke’s Bay wants to make next year’s planting an inclusive community event that welcomes the different parts of the community that Ratima has touched throughout her life.
Matariki Tu Rākau is a partnership between Te Uru Rākau New Zealand Forest Service and communities to plant native trees to recognize the service of New Zealanders who have made a significant difference in their community or area of work.
It funds taller tree species, those that grow taller than 5m, to enhance biodiversity, capture carbon emissions and protect our soils, water quality and other natural resources.
Hawke’s Bay Area Council Chief Executive James Palmer said Ratima has made extraordinary contributions to civic affairs over several decades, particularly in improving and guiding the relationship between the councils and the mana whenua.
“We are incredibly grateful to him.”
Palmer explained that Des was a passionate advocate for the local taiao and a towering figure in our community, especially in his kainga Whakatu.
“It is only fitting that he be remembered by these towering giants who will grow up on this site for us and future generations to enjoy and be inspired by,” he said.