In one of New Zealand's oldest inland towns, Waipawa, founded in 1860, stands the historic BNZ building (circa 1887), which is now the Central Hawke's Bay Settlers Museum.

The museum has recently opened its exhibition of local taonga Maori "Ngā Taonga o Tamatea – Te Hokinga Mai: The Treasures of Tamatea – The Returning".

Dedicated to artefacts from Central Hawke's Bay, the aim is to build relationships between the museum, local iwi and the Taiwhenua.

MTG director Laura Vodanovich and I attended the opening last Saturday.


The crowd were ushered in to follow the tohunga chanting his prayers, evoking the protection of the gods of old.

Listening, looking, walking past the exhibits: a moa-hunter toki found in Putere Creek, Porangahau, and a koruru from the top of the meeting house Te Poho o Kahungunu which stood at Porangahau in a time far extinct.

These and other valuable objects, hei tiki, taiaha, patu, all on exhibition: a link to the past of Central Hawke's Bay.

Following back outside, protocol was adhered to with tangata whenua welcoming manuhiri and thanking those who worked on the exhibition.

Dr Roger Maaka, chairman of the Kahungunu Tamatea Taiwhenua, was the first to address everyone. In his welcome he spoke of the importance of this exhibition to the local people of Central Hawke's Bay.

As the first exhibition of its type at the CHB Settlers Museum, Roger noted it was just a start and would continue and build into the future.

He applauded Jana Uhlirova, curator and manager of the CHB Settlers Museum, for her initiative and tenacity in producing this exhibition, which gathered taonga from MTG Hawke's Bay, Te Papa Tongarewa, and from private collections.

Mayor Alex Walker also spoke on the importance of such an exhibition, the bridging of connections between local iwi, the community, the museum, and the council.


Rangitane Don Tipene also spoke on his voluntary work alongside Uhlirova, identifying and collecting artefacts, mounting them for display and developing the labels to sit alongside each item.

Tipene also worked on ensuring the correct information was available when showing groups through the exhibition and has been busy with school groups since. It is his way of giving from a hapū tangata whenua perspective and ensuring knowledge is passed on to future generations.

A role of MTG Hawke's Bay Napier is to conserve, protect, and document the more than 6500 taonga Māori that are in the collection.

A substantial collection for any museum let alone a provincial museum, and very valuable.

This involves a duty to share with other museums in Aotearoa, to help exhibit these taonga Māori for iwi of all, and collaborate closely with other Hawke's Bay museums such as the CHB Settlers Museum and their "Nga Taonga o Tamatea – Te Hokinga Mai" exhibition, showing until March 1, 2019. Mauriora kia tātau, tātau us.

• The Architectural Legacy of J. A. Louis Hay exhibition opens to the public today. Saturday, December 8.

• Behind the Scenes Tour: Feeling Festive. From historic Christmas greeting cards to paintings of sunny summer days, celebrate the festive season with a look at the collection. Tuesday, December 11, 12pm. Free event. Spaces are limited, please register at eventfinda.

• Digital technologies & computer science teacher professional learning event. Free one-day interactive workshop for Y9 & 10 teachers of any discipline. Wednesday, December 12, 9.30am – 2.30pm. Limited to 30 teachers, please register at eventfinda.

• Te Hira Henderson is curator – Taonga Māori