New Hostel for Tauranga
Some three years ago the old Maori hostel in Tauranga which has been in existence since the ‘eighties of last century was condemned by the Health Department. For many years it had been used as sleeping quarters by the residents of Motiti Island and, on occasion, by the Maoris of Matakana Island or from the surrounding district who might require to stay overnight in Tauranga. However, it had become very dilapidated and, being in the main street, it really was an eyesore.
Several meetings of interested bodies were called to form an organisation to raise funds to replace the buildings and, at last, the project got under way. Members of the Maori Affairs Department, representatives of the Maori Women's Welfare League, a representative from Maori Schools, two nominees from Tauranga
Rotary Club, and delegates from all the surrounding marae formed an executive and the project was in hand by October, 1954. Mr. I. Tangitu, Welfare Officer, was appointed chairman, Mr F. M. Pinfold of Papamoa Maori School organiser, and Mr W. Ohia secretary.
The success which has crowned the efforts of this committee has resulted not only from this wide representation but also from the unity engendered thereby. In the fifteen months of activity the Appeal Committee has raised a fund of about £3,700. It is hoped that this money with government subsidy, along with monies from the sale of the old property, will provide a hostel and community centre worthy of the town and of inestimable value to the Maori people whom it is to serve, as well as a home from which those people may entertain their friends both Maori and pakeha.
Money was raised by Maori entertainment for the public and a carnival of some kind among the Maori community. There were, of course also minor activities.
The 1954–55 season consisted of a series of five concerts in the Tauranga Town Hall, a baby contest and a concluding Maori Cultural Championship day at the soundshell in Memorial Park. This entailed the formation of concert groups throughout the whole district and the practice of the Maori cultural arts. In the concert programmes it was laid down as policy that the items be genuine Maori. Another policy matter having a material influence on success was that admission charges be kept as low as possible. Consequently on practically all occasions two shillings was the charge. That first campaign netted aproximately £2000.
This 1955–56 season was organised on a similar policy except that a Queen Carnival was substituted for the baby contest. Entries to these contests were made by practically all the surrounding Maori districts: from Matakana Island, Judea, Wairoa, Bethlehem, Cambridge Road, Te Puna, Maungatapu, Papamoa, and Matapihi. Nett takings reached £1700. In each year the All-Maori Championships Day, being also the concluding day of the contest, brought in about £1100 of the total. Much planning was put in by the central committee but the success would never have been attained without the wholehearted co-operation of the local committees behind each candidate.
The fact that true Maori entertainment is appreciated by the general public was shown by attendances. Never was there less than a packed house at entertainments and, on several occasions, many people were unable to gain admission. As can be imagined, such conditions brought about an enthusiasm, both among performers and audience, which carried the show with it. With each succeeding concert, performing groups improved until, finally, the standard of performance and the techniques were excellent.
The highlight of those concerts occurred when it was decided to incorporate the various items into a Maori opera. Mr J. Kohu of the Judea group did this integration of items and an opera, Te Iwi Maori, was produced in the open-air at the Tauranga Sound-shell. Unfortunately weather conditions were bad, but there was a large audience nevertheless. It was the story, simply, yet proudly done in song and action, of the Maori race from their home in Hawaiki to Aotearoa of today. It concluded with the award to Maharaia Winiata, whose home town is Tauranga, of his Doctorate in Philosophy.
The All-Maori Day which concluded each season's activities, and at which the cultural championships were held, was something unique, lasting from eleven in the morning until midnight. To keep entertainment going for that length of time was no mean feat, but its very difficulty determed the spirit of all that it should be done. And it was done! The outstanding features of that day were the championships for which nearly all groups entered, and a Maori beauty contest.
Comprising the championships were six classes: Waiata Maori (with and without action), patere Maori, himene Maori, combined poi, and haka. In addition there were competitions in stick-games, hand-games, whiu, and various forms of the poi. The karanga and powhiri ceremony was also performed to welcome the local Mayor (Mr L. R. Wilkinson) and the local Member of Parliament (Mr G. A. Walsh). That the final night was marred by torrential rain, putting the park under water, was unfortunate. Nevertheless about a thousand people braved the weather to participate in an outstanding entertainment which concluded with a colourful Hawaiian crowning ceremony.
The Maori beauty contest was something quite different from accepted beauty contests. The girls and young ladies appeared, not in bathing costumes, but in ceremonial Maori dress. Treasured articles of Maori clothing and personal adornment which had not seen the light of day since yesteryear were proudly paraded with the poise and dignity of the kui. The winner, besides annexing a monetary prize, was invested with a sash inscribed: Te Tamahine o te Iwi; Tauranga, 1956.
As has been said the financial result has been very satisfactory and shortly the Maori people of Tauranga will have a building which will cater not only for their material wants but which will act as a rallying point for their cultural needs. Other values also have stemmed from these activities. They have learned the value of united action; by the inclusion of pakeha members in their committee both races have exemplified racial co-operation. This goes also in regard to the audiences; pakehas have shown their appreci-