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No. 74 (November 1973)
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Ngati Poneke Appeal

Second Stage Launched

“I believe the appeal for funds for the Ngati Poneke National Marae deserves the help and support of the whole community,” said his Excellency the Governor-General, Sir Denis Blundell, in launching the second stage of the building fund appeal.

In its 40 years of existence, Sir Denis said, Ngati Poneke had achieved three things: it had contributed enormously to Maori arts and culture giving great enjoyment to thousands of people — its performance at Waitangi earlier in the year being unforgettable; it had provided a central marae where all people were welcome; and it had done much in community service over a wide field.

Any one of these, he said, would make it worthwhile to help in the appeal.

Sir Denis was speaking at a special luncheon at the Ngati Poneke Hall on 4 September during which new sketch plans for the marae complex were unveiled. The complex is to replace the present hall which is due for demolition.

The plans provide for a general purposes hall, kitchen, changing rooms and offices, a caretaker's flat and a traditional Maori meeting house. Space is provided for a hangi and for the traditional marae, or courtyard, in front of the meeting house.

The general purposes hall will be used for the general activities of the club and will also be available for lettign to other organisations.

The meeting house will be used for traditional ceremonial and tapu occasions including tangihanga.

The complex is designed to be erected in stages, the general purposes hall first and the meeting house to follow. It is hoped to have the whole complex started about the middle of 1974.

The basic concept of the design is of a Maori pa or village. The site is in the general area of Pipitea Pa which was inhabited by Maoris when the first European settlers arrived in Wellington. The complex is intended to restore this pa for Wellington, thus providing a unique link with its early history.

During the luncheon the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. Norman Kirk, who was paying his first visit to Ngati Poneke Hall, said that the spirit of Maoritanga had remained as a strong vital force in the community. He described it as a link with past generations, an anchor for contemporary Maori society and a spirit capable of bringing great benefits to other New Zealanders.

“Today,” he said, “there is a shared interest in Maoritanga. The new marae will enable the work of Ngati Poneke to continue, providing an opportunity for the young Maori to preserve his identity and for the Pakeha to understand his needs and aspirations.”

The Leader of the Opposition the Rt Hon. J. Marshall, said that the preservation of Maori culture and the upholding of Maori tradition had his full support. “It is good to see this increasing interest particularly among the Maori people and in the community as a whole,” he said.

Other distinguished guests at the luncheon included the Mayor of Wellington, Sir Francis Kitts, and Lady Kitts, Bishop Norman and Mrs Norman, Rev. Fr P. Conaghan, the Minister of Tourism, Mrs W. Tirikatene-Sullivan, Mr J. G. O'Brien, M.P., Mr K. Comber, M.P., Mr K. Wetere, M.P., Mr J. M. McEwen, Mr W. T. Ngata, Mr H. K. Ngata, Mr M. Te Hau, Mr W. Parker, Mr H. E. Duff-Daysh and Mr B. L. Lyons.

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Mr Lyons, general gifts chairman of the appeal, said that by world standards Wellington was a small city, but it still possessed features which could not be found anywhere else. When the Ngati Poneke National Marae was completed, Wellington would be in the unique situation of having the Downstage Hannah Playhouse at one end of the city and, at the other, the new Maori cultural and social centre.

Mr Lyons said he was helping in the appeal because of the difficulties he could remember experiencing when he came to Wellington from Hawke's Bay in the 1940s in making contact with social and cultural organisations.

“If it was difficult for me,” he said, “I could imagine how much more difficult it would be for young Maoris coming to the city for the first time. This is why it is so important that the appeal for funds for the new marae should be supported.

“But as well as a marae for Maoris,” said Mr Lyons, “the new marae will be a cultural centre worthy of the city of Wellington. The poet Matthew Arnold once said that ‘culture is to know the best that has been said and thought in the world’. In Downstage and the Ngati Poneke Marae we will have the best.”

After greeting the Governor-General, the Prime Minister and Mrs Kirk, the Mayor and Lady Kitts, and other distinguished guests, the Bishop of Aotearoa, the Rt. Rev. Manu Bennett, said, “To have the honour and distinction of being the keynote speaker places a very great burden of responsibility in my lap because the issue we deal with today could affect the course of our nation for years to come.

“In any discussion on the place of racial minorities, the aspect which drums up most emotional reaction and ire arises from situations in which the minority has been acted against. However, it is now abundantly clear that to protect any minority group from active discrimination alone, is no longer sufficient. In our present situation, as discrimination in the economic and social areas

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This sketch shows how the new marae will appear from the entrance.

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of living recedes, other needs of the minority people begin to emerge. At home we are witnesses to the new and intense demands for the needs which are beyond the basic ones of food and of clothing, and of shelter, upon which the main acts of discrimination used once to be based.

“Today, perhaps the greatest social phenomena in the Maori world are in his deep sense of self-awareness and his increasing need for more opportunities toward self-determination; his own localised self-identity, such as the Maori Battalion had within the armed forces in World War II, or a Maori sports team enjoys within the national sporting structure; freedom to exercise even more his right for self-expression; and particularly toward the growth in his own self-esteem.

“On the New Zealand multi-race scene I would not presume to say anything which might apply to any group other than the Maori of whom I am a part, and within that context may I say that if the Maori people are to enrich the life of both city and the nation, then the contribution a Maori makes must come largely from his own indigenous roots. As a person or as a group he can never in the long run make a truly distinctive contribution simply as an academically-produced Maori prototype of the western man — to be effective as a New Zealander he must first of all be worthwhile as a Maori.

“Our short history seems to indicate that the periods when the Maori made his most outstanding contributions to the life of the nation were times when his self-awareness as a Maori was at its keenest.

“Such periods were marked by the rise of the Young Maori Party which produced men like Buck, Ngata, Pomare and Bennett, three of them in their time knighted by their monarch, and the fourth made a Bishop by his church.

“Another period was during World War II when the Maori became an integral and an extremely effective part of the nation's war effort because he was able to take his own place and role in the nation's soldiering through his own Maori unit.

“Today I would say that the greatest single contributor to good race relations in the country is Te Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu, in recognition of which she has been made a Dame of the Empire, been given the Freedom of two of our cities and is an honoured guest wherever she goes. She has been the gracious host in her Maori setting to Her Majesty the Queen, as well as to other royal families and distinguished guests of our country, and always acting out this role from the background of her Maoritanga on the sacred ground of her marae, where she is not supported by the state, not by an institution nor by a church, but by her people, who see in her both an extension of themselves and the image of their ancestors. Yet despite the treatment of history, she has become the greatest bridge-builder in our multi-racial nation only because she has come to represent all that is best in the Maori-ness of the Maori people.

“If therefore New Zealand is to have a stable national life for her multi-racial components, then both city and state must produce structures and resources flexible enough in which plural societies can exist as equal partners together, in common acceptance of each other and in the concerns of mutuality — but before this can happen, those with power must give assurances never to use their power to the disadvantage of any of their ethnic satellite groups.

“All around us in the city we see the great cultural centres of the Pakeha side of us — the theatres, the art galleries, the cathedral, the museum, the carillon tower, the sports fields and others in which we all share, and for which we are all, in part, responsible. Our effort today, and indeed as it has been during the whole period of this appeal, is to establish a cultural centre from the Maori side of us … a centre absolutely essential to maintain the cultural balance of the two peoples in the development of a distinctive ‘life style’ for the nation, so that at the cultural level at least every New Zealander has the chance of becoming, even now, part Maori and part Pakeha.”