The Opening of Te Rau Aroha
Haere mai, Haere mai, Haere mai!
Haere mai ki Omaio.
This was the resounding invitation of welcome from Te Whanau-a-Apanui to the many tribes and people who assembled at Omaio on Saturday 4 January 1969. The occasion was important, the opening of Te Rau Aroha Dining Hall.
Under ideal weather conditions this memorable and beautiful hall was opened. The official party consisted of Mr W. J. Armstrong and his Council party, His Worship the Mayor Mr Chatfield, District Officer of Maori and Island Affiairs Rotorua, Mr J. H. W. Barber, and the Eastern Maori Member of Parliament, Mr Reweti, and Mr Murphy the Mayor of Murupara.
They were greeted by local elders, Messrs Ngamoki, Toopi, Tawhai, Stirling and Perry, representing the whole of the Whanau-a-Apanui.
This is a ‘Memorial Hall’ for two reasons. Firstly, it is a memorial to those servicemen who died in the course of the two world wars. Te Whanau-a-Apanui and all those assembled on this occasion silently mourned and remembered their supreme sacrifice. Here too, probably for the first time, is recalled the loving contribution of the Maori children of 25 years ago in raising funds to provide the Y.M.C.A. Canteen van, which also had on it the inscription ‘Te Rau Aroha’.
The hall is perhaps a memorial too to ‘Te Aroha’ of the Pakeha, aroha in terms of voluntary labour, expert advice and guidance, and personal contributions.
A local elder, in his speech, said that these three things were like those contained in the Bible, which are ‘Te tumanako, te whakapono, te aroha’, and Te Aroha was by far the most important one.
Mr D. N. Perry reminded the gathering of the dedication and devotion of purpose with which the Maori children raised the funds for the van.
Present at this gathering were a number
of soldiers from ‘B’ Company and ‘C’ Company. One recounted the services of this famous van and added that Mr Perry himself was one of the men in charge of it in the western desert.
In the other speeches much of the past was remembered. However, the District Officer told of the advances in education and the pursuits by young boys and girls in trade schemes provided by the Department of Maori and Island Affairs.
Mr Armstrong also stressed, ‘Look ahead and be progressive.’
Much should be said of the local people of Omaio for their fortitude, determination and sense of devotion to the task whereby the project was completed and their aim fulfilled. Te Whanau-a-Apanui as a whole are to be complimented on their organising ability, their preparations and their hospitality.