Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

New fale and consul follow heart of Samoan community

One of the biggest traditional Samoan houses to be built outside of the islands will be officially opened in South Auckland today.

The maota Samoa - or meeting house - is part of a multimillion-dollar complex on the corner of Bader Drive and Mascot Ave in Mangere.

The 5345sq m site belongs to the Government of Samoa and will house the new consulate-general offices which have been located on Karangahape Rd, in the central city, since the 1970s.

Today's opening ceremony will include a host of special guests and dignitaries, including Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Minister of Pacific Island Affairs Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, Labour leader Andrew Little and Auckland mayor Len Brown.

At the grounds yesterday, consul-general Faolotoi Reupena Pogi said the move had involved several years of planning and construction, which began early last year.

"It's a milestone our Government has decided to build these buildings here. Most of our people are now residing in the southern part of Auckland, mainly around this area and the nearby suburbs," he said.

"The office at K Rd was built in the late 70s. At that time, our community was living mostly around that area - the Grey Lynn area."

The fale is based on traditional structure, designs and patterns.

The large rafters - wrapped with woven sennit, made from coconut husk fibre - are typical of fale seen in Samoa. The tiles also include patterns inspired from Pacific culture and tattoos.

"We brought three sennit weavers, craftsmen, from Samoa to do just the sennit. The sennit was imported from Samoa. Each craftsman has his own pattern and this is how they're able to demonstrate their skills."

New Zealand companies Walker Community Architects and Haydn & Rollett are among the local companies involved in the project.

Pogi said a lot of research had to be carried out by the Kiwi architects to ensure their design would be authentic and do justice to the traditional fale.

Some workers travelled to the Pacific nation to look at fale designs, as well as looking at structural designs at the University of Auckland, which also houses a large Samoan meeting house dubbed the Fale Pasifika.

Pogi said the total project cost was "over $10 million".

Pogi acknowledged having such a building in South Auckland paid tribute to the country's multi-cultural society. He hoped both the Samoan and New Zealand communities would be proud of having it there.

"It has taken us 16 months to build and we are proud of the final outcome.

"We hope our people here in Auckland will be proud of this symbolic fale which shows, more or less, that this is their identity here in Auckland." Vaimoana Tapaleao

- NZ Herald

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