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Waka will be Wellington city asset – when and if it turns up

Feb 4th, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, News

WAITANGI Day will mark the opening of the new Wharewaka (house of canoes), Te Wharewaka O Poneke, on Wellington’s Taranaki Wharf – but the main star will be missing.

Wellington’s Waka Te Raukura (right), remains at Waiwhetu runanga museum in Lower Hutt because the runanga is refusing to part with it.

Sunday’s ceremony will instead involve a couple of “ring in” waka brought down from Whakatane for the occasion.

Wellington ratepayers paid $100,000 for Te Raukura to be carved in 1989 and $80,000 for it to be rehulled about seven years ago, reports the Dominion Post, but talks to have it returned broke down on Wednesday.

Kara Puketapu, chief executive of the Waiwhetu runanga, would not release Te Raukura or the other waka from the runanga’s museum, says Wharewaka o Poneke Charitable Trust chairman Sir Ngatata Love.

If and when Te Raukura arrives in the city, it will be a unique addition to Wellington, says Southern Ward councillor Paul Eagle, who is up-beat about the project.

“It’s not often that something indigenous is built and is visible for all visitors to see,” he says.

“It’s a great symbol of recognition for the local iwi as it recognises their presence. All Maori will be proud to see it as an icon for the city, and it’s in the perfect position.”

He believes all cultures will enjoy it, and the interaction with things Maori will improve knowledge of the culture.

“It’s a bit of Maori in the city. There is an educational component in that it will explain to schools and others the significance to Maori of canoes. It is in a perfect position to attract a huge number of visitors.”

The building cost $11.5 million, with funding from the city council, the Government, the Port Nicolson Block Settlement Trust, the Wellington Tenths Trust, and the Palmerston North Maori Reserve Trust.

At the opening on Sunday there will be a dawn ceremony for invited guests, with other visitors able to watch on the big screen at Odlins Plaza.

The event will have stalls selling food, and Maori arts and crafts. There will also be storytelling and cultural performances available during the morning.

A water-sports display of waka ama (outrigger canoes) will form part of the build-up to the Velux 5 ocean yacht race departure.

The building design is based on a korowai (cloak) reflecting mana and prestige.

Inside is space for the waka, a cafe and meeting spaces.

It will remain as a permanent structure on the waterfront, and will hold cultural performances, as well as interactive historical displays.

Late last month, the Dominion Post reported a deal was believed to have been agreed that would allow the waka to take part in the opening.

This followed discussions among rival factions of Te Atiawa iwi  regarding the ownership of the waka.

The Wellington Tenths and Palmerston North Maori Reserve trusts have been campaigning since the 1990s for the Wharewaka to be built on the waterfront.

A trust was set up to administer it called the Wharewaka o Poneke Charitable Trust, and full resource consent had to be obtained before building could commence.

Wellington Waterfront Limited has issued a 99-year lease of the land to the new trust.

Last year the council voted to use it as the centre for the Wellington rugby village for this year’s Rugby World Cup, with 50,000 visitors expected.

Sir Ngatata Love says he is delighted at the possibility of using the building to inform and entertain during RWC 2011, according to a city council report.

“The Wharewaka will be a special place, visible and accessible for everyone, locals and visitors alike,” he told the council.

“What better way to showcase Wellington’s rich history than by using the building as the centrepiece of Wellington’s contribution to this global event?”

Established in 1839 and 1866 respectively, the Wellington Tenths and the Palmerston North Maori Reserve trusts administer lands on behalf of land owners, and pursue Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal claims.

The Wellington Tenths trust has been involved with a number of land ownership developments within Wellington.

Its name originates from William Wakefield’s 1839 promise to the chiefs of Wellington, stating a portion equalling one tenth of land ceded by Maori was to be reserved by the New Zealand Company and would be held in trust for the future benefit of chiefs, their families and their heirs.

Recent land returned to iwi includes areas in Shelly Bay and Point Dorset on the Miramar Peninsula, as well as Matiu/Somes Island.

The trust is currently working with the city council to protect Point Dorset as a reserve.

Opening of the Wharewaka takes place on Waitangi Day (this Sunday, February 6) near Taranaki Wharf on the waterfront between dawn and 2pm. The dawn ceremony is for invited guests only.

Other visitors can watch on the big screen from 4am at Odlins Plaza (by the former Free Ambulance building).

Visit for more details.

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is a Whitireia Journalism student, who enjoys crafting a good story.
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  1. The photograph you have of ‘TeRaukura’ speaks volumes. It is yelling out how little you know about the Waka. That is Te Aniwaniwa in the photograph – which by the way cannot even fit in the Wharewaka because the idiots didnt measure twice and ‘cut once’

  2. I fail to see the point in all these waka’s anyway. We got muuesm loads of primitive tools and other motley crap, and it’s exactly the same everywhere, yet treated with a reverence that is utterly over the top. Turns out that much of it is actually produced on demand by a bunch of well subsidized native craftsmen, so there ain’t any historic value in it either. Perhaps we can have a standard set of Maori paraphernalia to be determined by a small committee and have all places that exhibit such stuff put the same stuff on, all in nicely standardized, and therefore cheap, display items. Anything short can be effectively produced in china, such as waka’s and the decorated huts that are typically found in these set-ups. Or am I being culturally insensitive here?

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