It's a new home and the start of a new era for Napier hapu Ngati Paarau after opening new Waiohiki Marae wharenui Hau-Te-Ana-Nui with blessings from across the nation yesterday.
Including representatives of other Ngati Kahungunu iwi and hapu, there was whai korero from 14 manuhiri as more than 300 people gathered on the marae, beside the Tutaekuri with te maunga Otarara beyond for a proud, emotional, and entertaining powhiri that started when the large group was called on just after 10am.
Amid the karanga and the haka powhiri, and five kai wero (3 men and 2 women) challenging the arrivals with the traditional wero, responses included 12-year-old bagpiper Ralph Hunter, a trace of the Scottish heritage from his grandfather, with a group of non-hapu Treaty partners and helpers – nga hoa Pakeha, nga hoa Pasefika tangata Tiriti – including Tame Iti, of Ngati Tuhoe, who would represent the group on the paepae.
From tangata whenua speakers Chad Tareha and Tamati Cairns to senior manuhiri kaumatua Jerry Hapuku, would be repeated that it was good to have a home to come to, more than 19 years after the fire that burned the most-recent former whare (Te Huinga) one night in March 2002.
Waiohiki had lost another whare, also Hau-Te-Ana-Nui, by fire more than a century ago.
The recent return of four pou tokomanawa, commissioned by Tareha Te Moananui in the mid-1800s and representing four rangatira among the mass losses in what has been called the Battle of Te Pakake in 1824 (a pā near what is now known as West Quay), and now standing in the whare had been one big moment to celebrate in the opening.
But there were two taonga from Te Papa, linked directly to Ngati Paarau but on loan from Te Papa.
The hosts recognised the help and support of other marae over the years without the whare, including Moteo and Wharerangi.
There was also acknowledgement of the work that would have had gone into planning, financing and building the whare.
The formal powhiri lasted close to four hours before visitors were able to enter the new whare where history and tales continued for hours in the marquee, as young new leaders mixed with kaumatua. Each was looking towards the next stage of redevelopment – the building of whare kai dining and all-purposes facilities.
It would be tough, they reckoned, but recent efforts, amassing putea around $900,000 in the past three years to get Stage 1 over the line, showed it could be done.
There was a start in the koha, placed variously in a mini-whare carried onto the marae by manuhiri and accepted on behalf of Ngati Paarau by modern leader Te Kaha Hawaikirangi, brother of Marae trust chair Hinewai Ormsby.