Whither to, waiwhetu…

While we’re waiting with willing Waitangi welcome, windy Wellington’s waka wends wetly with Waiwhetu, where wrangles wearily wear worrisomely. What will we watch? Worry while we work!

Yes indeed, the much awaited day dawns, and the whare waka will be named at a dawn ceremony on Waitangi day – this coming Sunday.

The building has had financial input from the Tenths Trust (local / Taranaki based iwi Te Ati awa), but the major funding has come from central and local government, in part at least as retribution for the pathetic attempts over the years for the government to live up to its side of the treaty promises. There’s a pretty shabby history there, with, yet again, broken promises regarding tino rangatiratanga. The long and short of it is that the Tenths Trust was set up in Wellington to administer the remaining tenth of land that was reserved for Maori – and yet even that deal was reneged on many times. Sigh. Crappy broken politicians promises. Well, we can at least have a look at the building next week, and for a start, a look at the history behind the building.

The construction project appears to have gone quite smoothly, which is more than can be said for the planning process to get it there. Way back when, there was a proposal to have 2 buildings on site – from memory, one a whare kai, and one a whare waka. They’ve now both been amalgamated, and this was partly in answer to continued opposition at the time from the boating clubs nearby. The boaties were complaining that there wasn’t enough room for their trailers full of boats to be stored, or backed, although there was some suspicion at the time that this was just a thinly disguised attempt to not have to share their shingle spit with anyone else.

Wellurban reported on this several times back in 2006, like here, and also here, and here as well – but the annoying thing is that all the articles at the WWL website have been deleted – so we can’t go back in history and see what the original depictions were like. Perhaps architecture + could send us an old picture – but in case they don’t, just close your eyes and imagine one smaller building by the bottom of the City to Sea bridge, and another where the current wharewaka is.

The building will suffice not just as a home for the waka, or wakas, but also as a whare kai – or perhaps even a whare pia. It is not yet a whare wakairo, but it will be both a museum-ish home, as well as a living venue for – presumably – not just the waka themselves, but local iwi as well as rentable space for weddings etc in the same way that the nearby Star Boating clubrooms also stand in for things Wellingtonian. In a well timed move, it will also be ready as a venue for Wellington’s rugby world cup celebrations later in the year – but, opening on Sunday the 6th, will not be quite ready for a trial run with the Sevens tournament this week.

But will we actually have a waka to store in our whare? Or if so – which waka will we have? The Dom Post reports that : Waka tipped to turn up for wharewaka ceremony and notes that while “a deal is believed to have been done” to allow “Wellington’s waka” to take part in a Waitangi Day dawn ceremony to open the waterfront’s new $12.5 million wharewaka.

Rival factions of the iwi, Te Atiawa, have been involved in long discussions over the ownership of two canoes housed at a museum in Waiwhetu, Lower Hutt – Te Raukura, also known as Wellington’s waka, and the Hutt Valley waka, Te Aniwaniwa. For the past three months Waiwhetu Maori leader Kara Puketapu and Port Nicholson Block Treaty Settlement Trust chairman Sir Ngatata Love have been engaged in talks over whether Te Raukura should be housed in the new wharewaka, or canoe house, as intended by the wharewaka’s designers. It is understood a deal has been done to allow the two waka from the Waiwhetu museum be present at the dawn ceremony.

Waiwhetu Marae chairman Kura Moeahu said his people had no idea what was going on in the discussions involving Dr Puketapu and Sir Ngatata. “The people of Waiwhetu are not happy. They have been left out of the discussions,” he said. The dispute between Sir Ngatata and Dr Puketapu is long-running. Dr Puketapu believes the Port Nicholson Block 2008 Treaty settlement did not adequately address the Waiwhetu compensation issue in the $25m cash and property deal. The return of the Te Raukura waka has now become caught up in the continuing dispute.

Messy, messy. A real pity too – it would be nice to have the occasion unsullied by controversy. The waka themselves are bound to be fantastic – here they are waka being launched, way back when, in 1989:

The waka taua (war canoe) on the left is Te Aniwaniwa, and the one on the right is Te Raukura. They are the work of master carver Rangi Hetet and his assistants. The vessels are being prepared for their dawn launch onto Wellington Harbour in 1989.
Alexander Turnbull Library, Dominion Post Collection (PAColl-7327)
Reference: EP/1989/4602/17A
Photograph by Phil Reid
Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa.

A question for you all: If the waka concerned has been built by Te Ati awa, with the involvement of Sir Ngatata and his iwi, should we not know it as “The Love Boat” ?
(Sorry, but couldn’t resist that. The Love’s are one of the most respected families in local / taranaki maoridom – descended from John Love, who, along with Richard Barrett and other early whalers and traders, were very influential back in the hapu back in the 1830s – If you would like to read more, go to this site here at the Journal of Polynesian Society. History and traditions of the Taranaki coast. Chapter XVIII The defence of Otaka or Nga-motu).

So, while we’re still unsure which waka will ultimately live in the whare, and exactly what it will be used as by the providers of the said canoe house, the building itself is well overdue and will be a welcome addition to the foreshore of Wellington harbour.

Well, its not welcomed by everybody apparently. Wellington Scoop had a go at it last year, with local editor Lindsay Shelton (ex-Waterfront Watch) having a go at it for partially blocking the view from the top of the City to Sea bridge, over to that marvel of architectural brilliance, Te Papa. No mind that Te Papa is an ugly and unloved monster that most of us would rather forget, Shelton had a good go at the WCC for not obeying its own Design Briefs about keeping a clear view through to Te Papa, but got short shift from the normally friendly WCC spokesperson, Richard MacLean: ““We have all been busy with more pressing projects,” wrote council communicator Richard MacLean. He added: “Unfortunately for you, the council is not obliged to leap to attention … every time you publish a piece.” …. “It will ultimately be a decision based on work priorities as to whether [our planners] respond or not.” Hmmm. What I think we can read from that is that the Council backed project was not going to have its roof removed and lowered at this late stage. Certainly the last Mayor was very keen on it!

And I strongly suspect that the new Mayor will be just as keen.

So: what do you think of it?