Spirits were high in Murupara despite the blustery, cold conditions as the community gathered to celebrate the grand opening of a new digital hub and development centre this week.
Te Runanga o Ngati Manawa has spent many years renovating the new centre and, on Wednesday, welcomed the community and dignitaries into the space.
The Manawa Tu Work for Life Centre already has 120 people enrolled and will help people access pre-employment training while the Manawa Rere Regional Digital Hub will help the community access IT equipment and other services such as SeniorNet classes, animation courses and e-learning programmes.
The development of the centre was made possible through a $2.79 million Provincial Growth Fund investment.
Te Runanga o Ngati Manawa chairman Kani Edwards said it was really special to be opening the new building and the two new centres would do great things for the community.
"I'm keen to move forward and show what we can do for our people and our community," he said.
Edwards said he had never seen a Government invest more money in the regions before, particularly the Eastern Bay.
"Ngati Manawa are keen to look at other funding projects and are keen to continue our good relationship with the Government," he said.
Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau, who is originally from Murupara, also attended the opening.
"Being back here reminds me of my childhood and my mum and dad," Tabuteau said.
"For me to be back and to awhi everyone here is a privilege."
Tabuteau said he had spoken to some of the tauira of the Manawa Tu Work for Life Centre who told him they had been learning welding and had aspirations to become deep-sea welders some day – something he described as "beautiful".
He said the new centre would stand behind the tauira so they could go forward and achieve their dreams.
Labour Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey also attended and said both his grandmother and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern were both from Murupara which proved that "good things come out of Murupara".
"This is awesome, this is what is what I got into politics for, this is what it's all about," Coffey said.
"It's about creating opportunities in places that haven't been invested in for quite some time."