Whangārei's Hihiaua Peninsula will be the cultural centre of the region on June 22, with the opening of stage one of the Hihiaua Cultural Centre and the Matariki Whanau Festival held the same day.

The first sage of the cultural centre, which is expected to cost $12 million to $15 million once fully completed, will have an open day and inaugural art exhibition open to the public between 10am-3pm on June 22, while the Matariki at Hihiaua Festival will run over the same period.

The festival is expected to bring several thousand people to Hihiaua, making an ideal day to formally open stage one of the cultural centre.

Whangārei's Hihiaua Peninsula (above) will be the centre of cultural activities on June 22, with the opening of stage one of the Hihiaua Cultural Centre and the Matariki at Hihiaua Festival.
Whangārei's Hihiaua Peninsula (above) will be the centre of cultural activities on June 22, with the opening of stage one of the Hihiaua Cultural Centre and the Matariki at Hihiaua Festival.

From 6pm-9pm on June 22 the centre will host the first in a series of talks that will provide a more intimate experience with korero from local experts on a variety of ancient and current issues affecting human existence on Papatuanuku (the land).

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As well, The World Class Māori Art Exhibition - featuring up to 50 prominent Ngāpuhi and other Māori artists exhibiting some of the finest examples of raranga, whakairo, painting, and mixed media - will be open to the public daily at the centre from June 22-October 3.

Interaction with and between artists and practitioners will also be a key feature of the Cultural Centre opening with weaving and carving demonstrations, mural painting, live music and other exciting activities in the innovative new spaces.

An impression of what stage two of the Hihiaua Cultural Centre will look like.
An impression of what stage two of the Hihiaua Cultural Centre will look like.

The Hihiaua Cultural Centre Trust chairman, Richard Drake, said the trust had worked long and hard to meet and overcome all the challenges along the way.

"We are finally able to say we are extremely excited to see this become a reality for the people of Tai Tokerau and our visitors. We strongly encourage the community to come and enjoy the open day and experience the new space for themselves," Drake said.

Stage one of the Māori cultural showcase entails the renovation of an existing workshop and construction of a waka shelter and launching gantry into the Waiarohia River.

Stage two will involve the creation of an iconic building with an auditorium featuring an outdoor/indoor performance stage, a conference and events centre, as well as exhibition and retail spaces.

"There is only one Hihiaua in the world and we hope our plans can exceed the expectations of all the people who have been involved in one way or another over the years," Drake said.

Both facilities comprising stage one will adjoin the Hātea Loop walkway on the Hihiaua peninsula and form the basis of a centre of Māori arts and cultural excellence.

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Another view of stage two of the Hihiaua Cultural Centre.
Another view of stage two of the Hihiaua Cultural Centre.

It will eventually include space for a variety of artistic and cultural pursuits, a laboratory for Māori science and technology projects, an exhibition and retail space as well as the waka facilities.

Previously called the Matariki Whanau Festival, Matariki at Hihiaua has been moved from last year's Town Basin location due to construction work on the Hundertwasser Art Centre with Wairau Māori Art Gallery development.

"Whangārei District Council is excited to collaborate with Hihiaua Cultural Centre Trust and a number of other community groups to deliver an amazing day for whanau to celebrate Matariki," Whangārei District Council Venues and Events Manager Carina de Graaf said.

The 2019 event will feature a full programme of entertainment on the main stage, with guest performers as well as kapa haka, kai, Matariki market stalls and other fun activities located in and around the Hihiaua Cultural Centre. Vendors and visitors will also occupy surrounding streets and the area towards the Waka and Wave sculpture.