Change is coming as Whanganui Iwi receive their land and river settlements - and some will emanate from a large building at 249 Victoria Ave. Reporter Laurel Stowell is given a tour.
Restoring former names and their meanings is part of the land claims settlement and relationship re-set on the way for Whanganui.
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Making "Whanganui" the only correct spelling of this town's name will be part of the settlement, but Whanganui Land Settlement Negotiation Trust (WLSNT) chairman Ken Mair doesn't expect legislation to change it instantly. He says it will happen over time.
"We have never taken a hard line. All we have wanted is the spelling to be corrected, to ensure the integrity of our name."
There are other names local Māori would like restored to Whanganui places - such as Rotokawau for Virginia Lake, and Pukenamu for Queen's Park. Restoring the names and the stories that go with them will give people a better understanding of history, Mair said.
"A lot of our history has been subsumed by colonial names."
He has no love for the National or Labour parties, but said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's move to get New Zealand's land war history into school curriculums is positive - even if that history is "watered down".
The way land wars played out in Whanganui should be part of the curriculum of every school in town, he said.
What happened here in 1847 should be right at the top of the list, he said. The Waitangi Tribunal's He Whiritaunoka (Whanganui Land Report) is recommended reading, and its 1846-48 chapter is titled War in Whanganui.
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"People were hung. We were one of the first bastions of attack from colonial forces in this country," Mair said.
In 1846 settlers and Māori were at odds over inconclusive New Zealand Company land sales in both the Hutt Valley and Whanganui, the tribunal report says.
Upriver Whanganui Māori who had settled in the Hutt Valley were being evicted, and an upriver taua (war party) went to help them. Governor Grey was alarmed, and declared martial law in the lower North Island.
Ten Whanganui Māori who had gone to the Wellington area were arrested and tried in a court martial. One, the brother of a chief, was executed, and others were imprisoned or exiled to Tasmania.
In reaction another taua headed downriver to plunder Whanganui - but it stopped short of that. However in December 1846 Grey sent nearly 200 soldiers to the fledgling town, then named Petre, and they built two stockades.
In April 1847 a Putiki chief was shot, but not killed, by one of the soldiers, the tribunal report says. Tensions were high, and two days later a group of six Māori aged 12-18 attacked a settler family on a farm, killing four and wounding four others.
They were caught, had a court martial trial and four were executed. Another taua came down the river in response. Grey boosted the number of soldiers in town, and more Māori joined the taua, which raided settlers on the outskirts.
In May settlers left poisoned flour in a house, possibly hoping to kill the raiders.
The two sides faced up against each other in the Battle of St John's Wood, on July 19 1847. The fighting lasted several hours and there were casualties on both sides. It was the colonial soldiers that left the field, and Māori returned upriver to plant their crops.
Peace was declared in 1848, but distrust lingered and the Crown's behaviour in the 1848 Whanganui land purchase was "wrong and deceptive", the tribunal said.
"We call it outright theft," Mair said.
The WLSN Trust is mandated to negotiate land claims for the lower Whanganui River. In the meantime this area's Tupoho iwi/hapu is doing what it can to develop itself, with scarce resources.
"We have been acquiring small new assets to help develop ourselves."
It has acquired a lot of buildings - but Mair said what it really wants is land. He is the trust's chief negotiator, as well as its chairman.
The trust's agreement in principle with the Crown was signed at Putiki Marae on August 30, and can be read on the trust's website. Negotiations now focus on the detail of the settlement. They take place once or twice a month, in either Whanganui or Wellington.
"Then we go away and try and complete the work streams," Mair said.
The Crown's chief negotiator is Richard Barker. Present for Tupoho will be Mair and his deputy Richard Kingi and project manager Tracey Waitokia - and sometimes others.
The trustees listed on the WLSNT website are Mair, Kingi, Hone Tamehana, Turama Hawira, Jenny Tamakehu, George Matthews, Tina Rupuha-Green, Novena McGuckin, Erana Mohi, Des Canterbury-Te Ngaruru and Ken Clarke.
As well as Waitokia the trust has two other staff, an administrator and Kahurangi Simon, doing communication.
Its base is Tupoho House, 249 Victoria Ave. The large Education Board building was landbanked for Treaty of Waitangi settlement when it was no longer needed for education. Tupoho began leasing it two and a half years ago.
It's a big place, and Mair says it needs maintenance. The trust has offices and meeting rooms upstairs, and a central top floor area has a gallery of maps that illustrate the twists and turns of history and the complexity of any land settlement.
There's also a whole room for what Mair calls "the historians", with more documents and maps.
One of the other buildings Tupoho acquired is now the Inspire Whanganui Health & Fitness Centre, which Tupoho has run for seven years. It has also run the Whanganui Resource Recovery Centre, at the former Wanganui Prison, since 2013.
It leased the 4.2ha former Wanganui Regional Community Polytechnic complex in Campbell St in 2011, also taking over its maintenance. Since then Te Oranganui and Awa FM have moved into buildings there.
Rangahaua Marae, in one corner of the complex, houses its education arm, the Tupoho Whānau Trust, also chaired by Mair.
Tupoho House sits in a sizeable chunk of landbanked land between Victoria Ave and St Hill St. The property next door, where a building burned down, is part of that.
Rents from some of the properties get fed into Tupoho's economic arm, Tupoho Investments Ltd, which has Mair, Waitokia and Sandi Ranginui as directors.
Employment is a key want, to improve the prospects of Tupoho people. Mair estimates development undertaken so far has made for 25 to 30 jobs.
The iwi has also invested in upskilling its young people, so they can succeed to leadership roles. And it has its elders, the kaumātua kaunihera (council), to depend on.
"They fit in everywhere. They give us guidance and advice. It's great," Mair said.
The iwi's social service arm, Tupoho-Iwi and Community Social Services, is housed in the ground floor of Tupoho House. It has about eight staff, volunteer and paid, and supports whānau in any way needed - from budget advice to drug counselling and parenting education.
It's funded by Government and community contracts, and people also do the work out of aroha. Waitokia is one of its managers. She said it has capable people, but there isn't enough money to pay them.
"We do way above what we get funded for."
Also on the ground floor is FLOW, a new organisation led by police and iwi in a community response to family violence.
More important than money or land in the settlement, is the resetting of relationships with Government and local and regional councils. It's one of Waitokia's key focuses.
The new relationship must be based on Tupoho values, including honesty and integrity. Waitokia wants councils and the Crown to work with Tupoho to implement Tupoho's own solutions to Tupoho's needs.
"As an organisation and as iwi we hear the demand of our people that something has to change, and we are trying to approach that in a local way," she said.
"It's about an alliance for change. Change is always a long road."