Terry Dunleavy MBE is a writer of Takapuna.

The Auckland Council's latest plan to open up more of the city's waterfront is an opportunity to revisit an eminently sensible suggestion made in 2006 in the Herald by Sandra Coney of an Arrival Museum.

Let's recall her proposal: "The concept of an Arrival Museum could well fit the bill. All the early peoples of Auckland had to cross the sea to settle here. Maori arrived first in their waka, followed hundreds of years later by settlers from the United Kingdom in sailing boats ... An Arrival Museum would celebrate these diverse groups by recording their histories and cultures and providing the space for cultural performances and events, exhibitions and displays, storytelling, teaching, research and study. This would be a living museum, dedicated to Auckland people's past, present and future."

Not just an exciting challenge, but a great opportunity. Wellington has its Te Papa (officially translated as "Our Place"). Here is Auckland's opportunity to add balance with a building dedicated to Nga Tangata ("Our People"). And, because it would be the national shrine to our multicultural population, it would deserve a similar degree of government funding as given toTe Papa in Wellington.

Advertisement

And where better than one of the wharves at which, prior to the age of air transport, so many new Kiwis from diverse parts of the world made their first landing here?

It is also the opportunity to further redress a blot on the Pakeha- dominated history of central Auckland, with some visible and permanent reference to the memory of the Maori rangatira Apihai Te Kawau, paramount chief of Ngati Whatua o Orakei, who first initiated Pakeha settlement in the area.

In 1840, just months after the signing of the Treaty, Apihai Te Kawau invited Governor William Hobson to set up his seat of government. The Orakei report of the Waitangi Tribunal was later to comment that the "settlers came not as conquerors, not as interlopers, but as Te Kawau's invitees to share the land with Ngati Whatua".

Within five years of that invitation, Ngati Whatua had seen over 100,000 acres of its whenua disappear with little to show for it. By 1868, they were reduced to the 700-acre Orakei Block deemed to be forever inalienable, not to be sold.

In 1913, Government changed the policy. While Ngati Whatua leaders were with New Zealand troops overseas the Government passed a law allowing for the individualisation of title. The land was sold off and what remained was a marae, a pa and an urupa based at Okahu Bay.

In 1951, the marae and pa were deemed an eyesore on Tamaki Drive and unsafe for habitation. The Auckland City Council evicted all residents to new State housing on the Kupe St hill and razed the marae and attendant buildings to the ground. The quarter-acre urupa was all that remained. This led to the troubles at Bastion Point in 1977-78 and the eventual settlement of the hapu's Treaty claim.

Thanks to the Waitangi tribunal processes, Ngati Whatua o Orakei has regained its mana and has become an active and progressive contributor to our city's development.

With Captain Cook Wharf planned for modest extension to accommodate modern cruise liners, its near neighbour, Queens Wharf, houses Shed 10 which could easily convert to an Arrivals Museum, titled "Nga Tangata", where disembarking visitors could glimpse our city's history and expressions of the pride and culture of the many peoples who now make up not just the home of a vibrantly multicultural society but also the world's most prominent Polynesian city.

And on the forecourt between Shed 10 and Quay St a sculpture could represent Chief Te Kawau welcoming Hobson as steps ashore to confirm our city as our nation's first capital - a reminder not only to visitors but to our own peoples of the founding of our great city.