TTF is supporting the development of a new cultural tourism and education centre in Opononi, Hokianga. This will celebrate the stories and traditions of the tangata whenua and provide local employment and facilities, while telling 1000 years of Māori history relating to Te Hokianga-a-Kupe, the returning place of Kupe.
Kathrine Clarke, project lead, talks about the excitement the centre is generating and the benefits it will bring to the local economy and people in Hokianga.
Construction is soon to begin on the new cultural centre. How long has this project been in the making?
The project has been in development for over ten years now. It follows the desire of local kaumātua (elders) to address the demands of tourism and the need to preserve local knowledge and the history of arrival and settlement in the Hokianga.
Why is the development of the Kupe Cultural Centre so important to the Hokianga?
The simple answer is “Telling our story our way” and “The story that started it all,” but it is more than that. It is about the arrival of the first navigator, Kupe, his settling in the Hokianga and the subsequent return home and arrival of Nukutawhiti and Ruanui. These are our stories, and they are not well known across New Zealand.
Over and above the importance of sharing our history, there is the economic, educational and social impact the centre will have for the local community. The Hokianga has had little or no investment in infrastructure and economic development for years, possibly decades. Ours is the first real investment from the government, via the Provincial Growth Fund, and it’s a great opportunity to turn the tide of generational unemployment.
How does it feel for this dream to become a reality?
In a word, amazing. I feel lucky to be a part of bringing the vision alive, in recognition of the kaumātua of the region.
What outcomes are you hoping to achieve for your community?
Employment, improved cultural knowledge and education are the simple answers. The opportunity to be a part of a “by Māori, for everyone” initiative is exciting. We hope our centre will be a catalyst for transformation in our local community, giving an opportunity to provide sustainable employment, and allowing others to use this purpose-built facility as an education centre.
What will visitors experience?
Manea Footprints of Kupe has been designed by blending Māori cosmology, local history and stories from our tūpuna (ancestors) using modern technology and traditional art forms — whakairo, raranga, waiata, karakia and mihimihi. Sixteen pou, funded by TTF and drawing on Māori cosmology and local history, will be positioned along a walkway guiding visitors to the Heritage and Education Centre.
We will use an interpretative approach to showcase Kupe’s voyage to the Hokianga, his departure, and the re-population by his descendants.
What can you tell us about the carvings you are commissioning and the youth education/training programme?
We have commissioned two local carvers to produce the pou. Local young people will be able to participate and learn carving skills too. The carving project is likely to take up to nine months, but is just stage one of a bigger aspiration to offer local artists the chance to share their skills and sell their art to the visiting public.
The training programme is exciting at all sorts of levels. We’ve been working with a private training provider to develop a bespoke Māori tourism-training programme. The content will share the history and stories of our part of the Hokianga. Employees will attend a training programme so they have the knowledge to share our story with visitors to the cultural centre.
In addition to that programme, we have the opportunity to work with the lead contractor and a training provider who is currently funded to support young people in the construction industry.
- TTF’s donation will cover the costs of carving, and an education and training programme for young people.