by Anne-Marie Emerson
"It's a new beginning for our house and for our hapu."
Those were the words from Nga Ariki kaumatua Potonga Neilson, when the historic whare nui of Waipapa marae reached its new resting place yesterday.
The whare nui, Nga Paiaka - which was built in 1891 - and two other marae buildings are being moved this week from their former home on flat land beside the Waitotara River to higher ground.
The marae has been badly flooded twice in the past five years, and hasn't been in use since 2004.
About 100 hapu members were at the new site yesterday to welcome Nga Paiaka after its slow trip up the hill on the back of a Britton Housemovers truck.
The telephone poles had to be removed temporarily from the narrow road, and large trees were trimmed back in order to let the building through.
Relief was expressed at the whare nui's safe arrival, and admiration at the commanding views from the top of the hill.
The new site looks over the ancient pa site of Poronui and on a clear day Mt Taranaki is visible.
One Nga Ariki woman told the Wanganui Chronicle the marae's move was very welcome.
"We had no choice but to move it, really - although now we have, it probably won't flood around here again!
"But it's good to know we don't have to worry about it again."
Waipapa's whare kai was moved on Monday, and the kitchen will be moved later in the week.
It's been a long journey for Mr Neilson, who is passionate about the preservation of his kainga [home marae].
Nga Paiaka is a special whare nui, he said, with tukutuku panels made of traditional materials and a tahuhu [ridgepole] carved with an adze.
Removal has involved building consent, resource consent and many discussions among the local people.
The cost of moving the buildings was about $56,000, excluding surveying and consents.
Mr Neilson said much of the cost was met through South Taranaki's mayoral relief fund and insurance paid out after flooding.
He said all the effort and financial difficulties were worth it in the end.
"Nga Paiaka has stood lonely for four years. Now it's lonely no longer."
PICTURED: ON THE MOVE: Nga Ariki kaumatua Potonga Neilson with Nga Paiaka, Waipapa marae's whare nui, which was moved to high ground from its former site on the banks of the Waitotara River, to protect it from further flooding. With him is his mokopuna, Ripeka Waitokia.
by Anne-Marie Emerson