Wharewaka Opens

31 January 2011

A dawn ceremony on Waitangi Day will mark the opening of the Wharewaka o Poneke near Taranaki Street wharf - a significant event for Wellington.

A showcase for Maori culture and the base for the Rugby World Cup 2011 village

A showcase for Maori culture and the base for the Rugby World Cup 2011 village

The Wharewaka is an important new addition to Wellington's waterfront and reflects the city's commitment to mana whenua. It was specifically designed to house the Wellington City waka, Te Raukura.

Construction of the Wharewaka began in January last year and Mayor Celia Wade-Brown is delighted to see it finished.

"Wellington should be very proud of this building. It's a building you couldn't see anywhere else in the world. Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika have delivered Wellington a wonderful asset that reminds us all of their place in the city - their history on the waterfront and their future as well."

The Wharewaka has exhibition and function areas, a cafe, commercial kitchen and office space. It will host pōwhiri and cultural performances, and feature carvings and interactive history displays. The building highlights the mana of Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika on the waterfront in an area originally occupied by tūpuna.

Sir Ngatata Love, chairman of the Wharewaka o Pōneke Charitable Trust, says he's excited to see the Wharewaka open. "This has been planned since the 1990s and I'm delighted we're now able to bring waka culture to Wellington's waterfront."

The Wharewaka's exterior design is based on the form of a korowai (cloak), which has in recent times come to reflect mana and prestige. The korowai design is based on the traditional sails of the waka fleet and louvered metal panels symbolise the cloak's arms draping over the sides of the building.

The Wharewaka's maihi or bargeboards, where the external walls meet the roof, also reflect the design of a waka.

The earliest Wellington explorers are linked with the waka of today through the buildings relationship with the Kupe group statue beside it and the representation of a traditional Polynesian navigation aid, the star compass or aronga mana, at the front of the Wharewaka.

The Council committed $1 million to the $11.5m project - other funding came from the Government ($7 million), Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust, Wellington Tenths Trust, and the Palmerston North Māori Reserve Trust.

The Wharewaka will be the centrepiece of Wellington's Rugby World Cup 2011 (RWC 2011) 'fan zone'. City Councillors voted, after public consultation, to spend $100,000 in 2010/11 and $50,000 in 2011/12 as part of the Annual Plan to create the fan village around the Wharewaka, which will be leased for the duration of the tournament.

The Council is working with the Trust on a programme of activities to provide a unique cultural experience for visitors and locals during RWC 2011. "We're very proud that our celebration of this global event will showcase Māori culture and specifically the important role of mana whenua," says Mayor Wade-Brown.

Sunday's dawn ceremony is for invited guests but anyone can watch it live on the big screen at Odlins Plaza (by the former Free Ambulance building) from 4.00am. The whare is not named beforehand, as it is asked to reveal itself as part of the opening ceremony.

Delicious kai will be available from Māori and Kiwiana stalls selling breakfast and lunch. Throughout the morning there will be cultural performances, including singer Toni Huata, watersports demonstrations by ceremonial waka and Waka Ama, storytelling and the traditional Māori Ki-o-rahi. Guided tours of the Wharewaka will also be available during the day.