A ''living cultural centre'' in the historic Kerikeri Basin will help restore pride in a Bay of Islands hapū, the project's leader says.
More than 100 people gathered before dawn on Thursday as Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan officially opened Te Ahurea, formerly a replica Māori fishing settlement called Rewa's Village.
Built more than 50 years ago, the original aim of the village was to raise money for a legal battle to save the area around the Stone Store and Hongi Hika's pā from being turned into a subdivision.
The current owners, Ngāti Rēhia, were last year granted $1.25 million by the Provincial Growth Fund to turn the tired tourist attraction into a living showcase of Māori culture.
The hapū is planning school holiday programmes, carving and weaving workshops, and wananga.
New buildings and carvings have been erected, bush walks created and a jetty constructed. A new sentry tower, mirroring one across the river at the pā, is also planned.
The most significant addition, however, is a new whare waka beside Kerikeri River directly opposite the Stone Store.
It will eventually house a waka carved by a team led by Hemi Eruera, who learnt from the renowned Hekenukumai Busby.
The waka will be completed and the side panels carved on site, so the public will be able to watch the progress, from next month.
The renewed facility was formally opened by Ngāti Rēhia kuia Te Rauoriwa Pere and new Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan.
Allan said the chance to learn about the site's significance had been a ''real privilege''.
''This will be a living centre to share history, to build collective awareness and knowledge about who we are. It has a really nice, warm āhua (feeling). The people here are very pleased to be hosting this facility to pass those stories on to the next generation.''
The opening tied in with the Government's announcement a day earlier that New Zealand history would be taught in schools from next year, she said.
''Sometimes the question comes up: 'But whose history?' It's all of our history. These are our stories. The more we know about our stories the less fearful we become.''
Project leader Kipa Munro said apart from instilling pride, Te Ahurea would bring the hapū's identity back into Kerikeri.
''It will provide a space for us to tell our stories outside of our marae, to promote ourselves and our culture,'' he said.
Former Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and MPs for Te Tai Tokerau and Northland, Kelvin Davis and Willow-Jean Prime, also took part.