One of New Zealand’s most innovative public buildings has been officially opened in an extraordinary display of partnership between Maori, Pakeha and the Dalmatian Communities.
Hundreds of people turned out to witness Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae open the $14 million Te Ahu Centre in Kaitaia on Saturday.
A highlight of the opening was the firing of three cannons by Sir Jerry, Far North Mayor and Te Ahu Trust Chairman Wayne Brown and Te Runanga o Te Rarawa Chairman Haami Piripi.
But more remarkable was the rare sight of the New Zealand and Maori Tino Rangatiratanga flags flying together from the centre’s flagpole.
Speakers at the powhiri hailed Te Ahu as a unique building that had brought people of all cultures together.
Mayor Brown said it was fitting that the Governor General was opening the centre on the 172nd anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi at Kaitaia.
“This is something nowhere else in New Zealand can boast of and we did it ourselves without the help of the Government.”
Numerous people had helped to make the multi-functional centre a reality, including Te Ahu trustee Phil Cross and former trust Chair Ian Bamber who suggested bringing Kaitaia’s library, museum, i-SITE and council service centre together under one roof.
Te Ahu trustees and trust general manager Mark Osborne had put countless hours into the project which had received financial support from the Far North District Council, ASB Community Trust, Far North Community Forest Trust, Lotteries Commission, Pub Charity and others.
The district could pride itself in a facility that was designed and built almost entirely by local firms, including Arcline Design, Beard Parsonson Architecture and KPH Construction.
Sir Jerry said he accepted Mayor Brown’s invitation to open the centre because it immediately struck him as something special.
“Te Ahu is a place where cultures intersect.”
He praised Te Ahu Trust for underwriting a magnificent venture that had resulted in a remarkable building.
“It represents those quintessentially Kiwi qualities: volunteering, hard work, ingenuity and a can-do attitude.”
Mr Piripi said Te Ahu represented a dream of Maori, Pakeha and Dalmatian forebears who wanted to co-exist peacefully and work together to achieve common goals.
“In order for us to be successful and prosperous, we must all beat with one heart.”