In the stillness of an early Saturday morning in Foxton, a dawn ceremony was performed opening the new park, which overlooks the River Loop in Foxton.
The karakia were performed conjointly by Rangi Te Whiu Jury, Tawhiti Kuraiti, Heemi Te Peeti, Karanama Peita, and Huataki Whareaitu, on behalf of local iwi Ngāti Raukawa.
Horowhenua District mayor Bernie Wanden said, "The reason we're here today is to celebrate this wonderful project to improve the health from our awa."
"This early morning blessing was made all the more special because of the partnership that has developed with this project," said Wanden.
"I would like to express Horowhenua District Council's and their communities sincere appreciation and gratitude to all the people of Ngāti Raukawa for their contribution to this project," Wanden said.
One of the other highlights of the day was the unveiling of an old anchor. Arjan van der Boon said, "This anchor is another stunning historical addition to our beautiful place, right on the border with the brand new park on the river loop."
"Te Awahou Riverside Cultural Park, is a story of community creation, with the Whare Manaaki, De Molen, the Flax Stripper and the Piriharakeke and Oranjehof museums," he said.
"With this anchor, the Save Our River Trust has added yet another taonga to all of that heritage and beauty," Van der Boon said.
Tony Murdoch said, "One of the many things SORT has done over the years, was to keep the River Loop alive and bring it back to life.
"While Dr Bob Hosking, Louis Spink and John Batt in 2015 were digging near the board walk, they came across something they thought was a tree trunk.
"They kept digging, and slowly but surely an anchor appeared. I was called in to help and using a front end loader we carefully removed the anchor from the silt and mud. We then we stored and treated it, and now it would last at least another 100 years," Murdoch said.
Robin Hapi from SORT said that while acknowledgements and thanks were important, he preferred to talk about "the journey we are on and the destination we have in our sight."
"Our mission is to see the upper reaches of our River Loop reconnected with what has now become the main course of the Manawatū River."
"There have been many attempts at redress. In the past, Government has admitted they were culpable, and needed to right the wrongs visited upon Te Awahou/Foxton.
"So we thank the Provincial Growth Fund, minister Shane Jones and members of the Provincial Development Unit, some of whom were present this morning, for their assistance."
"What we see today is the culmination of a combined community effort, Māori, and council included. It's not the end of our journey but perhaps the end of the beginning of the journey, as far as the restoration of our River Loop at Foxton is concerned."
"We owe it to our community, to those who have passed on during the journey the likes of Mike Kidd and the brothers Gary and Dahlson Halidone. And we owe to the generation that will inherit our efforts and our legacy.
"Let's be strong and united in the next part of our journey. Let's do it together," Hapi said.
The rejuvenated section of the Manawatū River will support Foxton's regional economic development, while providing environmental, conservation and quality of life improvements, said chief operating officer of the Provincial Development Unit (PDU) Ben Dalton.
The completion of the Government-supported river improvements was formally recognised with a dawn blessing this morning, followed by a celebration of the achievement by the Foxton community. The event incorporated the annual Manawatū River Festival.
"Today is a significant milestone for the Foxton community, and I am pleased the PDU is part of this project to improve public facilities. It is a pleasure to celebrate Foxton's progress towards a sustainable future that will enable the town to grow for many years to come," Dalton said.
The PDU is managing a $3.86 million Government investment which has helped the Horowhenua District Council make improvements to the river environment in Foxton, including the recently completed river dredging and riparian planting.
After the speeches a reed shrub was planted in a small garden in the cultural park, by Wanden, who was assisted by three primary students Ani Waniwa from Shannon Primary School, Timotoi Parfitt from Coley Street school and Bree Leadbetter from St Mary's School in Foxton.
Wanden said he selected these children with the help of the 40 drawings entered in a competition from schools around the region.
Other events on the day included kapa haka performed by local primary schools, a flotilla of waka, rowing and sailing boats and jet skis.
Entertainment from Grammy award winning musician Jerome Kavanagh as well as bands Sparkle and from Levin Peanut Slab.