On January 25th, a significant event unfolded with the reopening ceremony of the Suzanne Aubert Rongoā Garden, which contains a collection of native plant specimens used by Suzanne Aubert and the Maori healers and herbalists who assisted her.

Sisters Margaret Anne Mills, Sue Cosgrove, Josephine Gorman, Veronica Hurrings, along with other whānau members of Compassion, attended the official opening of the Suzanne Aubert Native Plant Garden, located inside (restricted access) the Industrial Research Limited in Gracefield, Lower Hutt, and planted on 7 June 2000 through a project led by Callaghan Innovation – Te Pokapū Auaha, by the Sisters of Compassion, Ngati Ruaka, Ngati Kotahi, and Industrial Research Ltd (IRI) in recognition of the collaborative scientific study of Suzanne Aubert’s herbal remedies.

Meri Hohepa was a revered figure in New Zealand’s history, particularly noted for her profound contributions to healthcare and social welfare. One of her approaches to healthcare was the utilization of traditional Maori healing practices, known as Rongoā. These practices involved the use of native plants for medicinal purposes, drawing upon the profound knowledge passed down through generations of Maori healers.

The Suzanne Aubert Rongoā Garden stands as a testament to this collaborative effort and the profound respect Aubert held for indigenous knowledge and culture. The place contains a diverse array of plant specimens, each carefully selected for its medicinal properties and cultural significance. From the vibrant hues of kawakawa to the soothing aroma of harakeke, every plant tells a story of healing and resilience.

Rongoā refers to the traditional Māori healing system based on Te Whare Tapa Whā (the four pillars) of health: wairua (spiritual), tinana (physical), hinengaro (psychological) and whānau (family). Rongoā rākau (plant remedies) form an integral part of Rongoā Māori, with a wide variety of plants used to treat numerous conditions, and Meri Hōhepa Suzanne Aubert was an important believer and steward of the Rongoā Māori in the late 19th century. Hence, the plants in this garden predominantly contain Rongoā properties.

The reopening ceremony of the Suzanne Aubert Rongoā Garden was not merely a celebration of botanical beauty, but a reaffirmation of Aubert’s enduring legacy.