A prime site at Solway on which an exhibition fortified Maori Pa was built in the early 1990s has been sold to timber and hardware merchants Tumu ITM.

The block of just over 2ha, which is zoned industrial, fronts SH2 and borders Ngaumutawa Rd. Marae status for the land has been lifted from the title and the sale to Tumu has now become unconditional.

Tumu ITM business partner Paul Waite confirmed the business was now working through the process of a planned move from its existing location in Railway Cres, Masterton, to Solway with a commitment to grow its business in Wairarapa.

The land sale was secured by Lindsay Watts of Bayleys Wairarapa on behalf of vendor Dr Takirirangi Smith, a master carver and instructor who set up an exhibition pa on part of the land in the early 1990s.

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Mr Waite said besides Masterton, Tumu ITM has stores in Napier, Hastings, Havelock North, Gisborne and Dannevirke.

The Solway land would allow its Wairarapa business to be more visible to passing trade and would show the company is "positively reinforcing its faith in and its commitment to Wairarapa for the long term", he said.

It is unlikely vehicle access to the new store would be allowed off the state highway, especially as plans are afoot to construct a roundabout on the juncture of the highway with Ngaumutawa Rd and Buchanan Place, but access off Ngamutawa Rd already exists.

Dr Smith, also known as Clarence Smith, developed Pa Whakairo and opened it as an exhibition pa in 1992 but it was immediately controversial.

The project suffered a tortuous history of building consent wrangles, Waitangi Tribunal claims, and was subject to Environment and Maori Land Court hearings, even being the object of an arson attack.

Dr Smith had visions of it becoming a highly successful model marae with a visitors' centre, an education centre for Maori culture and technology, and a display centre for Maori art, but the venture never got into top gear and has by-and-large languished ever since without attracting much public interest.

It did serve as a venue for a Nga Kanohi Marae o Wairarapa initiated trades training programme and has been home to the Te Heru A Rangi Culture and Education centre.