Te pūwaitanga o te marae - Birth of a unique marae

Te tuara manaia – Rear wall support for the precast concrete head of the mythical figure 2 (to be completed

The construction of a marae on the Mt Albert campus is a dream long cherished by the Unitec whānau. We wanted to build a marae that would be a focal point for our three campuses. It is a place for ceremonial and celebratory gatherings of worship, kinship and friendship, a repository of local and historical knowledge and a centre for shared learning.

The idea to build a marae for Unitec came after the former chief executive officer, Dr John Webster, attended the opening of Manukau Institute of Technology’s marae in 1999. A challenge to build Unitec’s first marae was taken up by the late Sir John Turei, and Haare Williams Unitec’s Pae Arahi at the time, on behalf of the institution.

The first foundations of Te Noho Kotahitanga were laid on 26 February 2007, following a blessing of the land by Kaumatua Haare Williams at 7am.

He waahi whai taonga hītori - Location rich in history

'Te Noho Kotahitanga' marae - me tōnā Pā Harakeke Te Rangimarie - Unitec's marae and its flax garden 'Te Rangimarie'

The marae is located at the heart of Unitec’s Mt Albert campus, part of the original settlement area of the Ngāti Awa people who arrived on Te Waka Tapu O Mataatua.

When the Mataatua canoe made its way north from Whakatane with Puhi in command, it made a landfall near the Whau River. With him was his priestly sister Muriwai and niece Wairaka. Wairaka was already famous when she acted quickly to save the Mataatua canoe from rocks at the mouth of the Whakatane River. Before swimming out into the swirling waters she uttered the remark “Kia whakatane au i au.” (“Let me act like a man.”) Puhi went on to establish his people in Te Taitokerau (Northland), while Wairaka’s people stayed on in Te Pu o Wairaka, now known as Ōwairaka or Mt Albert, and intermarried with the people of Rakataura (Tainui) and Ohomairangi (Te Arawa).

Te wai unroa o Wairaka – The long drink of Wairaka

Stories recount that when Wairaka became thirsty she stamped her foot on the ground, and fresh water gushed out of the ground.

This spring became known as Te Wai Unuroa o Wairaka (‘the long drink of Wairaka’), and is located right here on campus. The spring was highly valued for drinking and for the rituals of thanks giving and ceremonials. It offered relief to the sick, was used for healing, bathing and irrigation, and was a constant source of food.

Te wai unroa o Wairaka – The long drink of Wairaka

Waihangatia he taonga a motu - Creating a national treasure

Since early 2003, award-winning master carver Lyonel Grant has been passionately and painstakingly crafting a marae that realises the vision of creating a national treasure, an asset that can simply be admired by those who enter its embrace, or be a place of solace for those who need it.

Te tohunga whakairo – Master Carver, Dr Lyonel Grant

Born in 1957 of Te Arawa and Ngāti Pikiao descent, Lyonel Grant is a graduate of the Māori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua. In recent years he has combined traditional carving influences with western sculptural materials and techniques.

Major commissions include the Pou Wairua for the foyer of Auckland’s Sky City. He was part of the award-winning design team for Tourism New Zealand’s 100% Pure New Zealand Ora Garden of Well-being at the 2004 UK Chelsea Flower Show.

Lyonel’s two previous wharenui (meeting houses) are Ihenga at Tangatarua Marae Waiariki Institute of Technology in Rotorua, and Te Matapihi o te Rangi in Tokoroa.

He completed three major commissions for the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand beween 1992 and 1998. Other commissions include three carved waka, one of which, Te Arawa resides on permanent display at Rotorua’s and was used in the 1990 Commonwealth Games commemoration in San Diego.

Lyonel regularly exhibits in solo and group exhibitions and also undertakes commissioned works.  He is represented in many collections both nationally and internationally and is focused on infusing cultural themes and modern techniques to produce artworks that relate to Kiwis but yet speak an international language.

Lyonel has not only designed, carved and undertaken historical research for each piece of artwork, but also trained three assistant carvers: Matene Sisnett, Whare Thompson, and Te Ratahi Morehu (and previously Doug King).

Lyonel worked very closely with weavers Judy Robson-Deane of Te Rarawa and Shona Tawhiao of Ngai-te-rangi iwi. They in turn enlisted the expertise, time and commitment from skilled people from within Unitec and the wider community.

He moemoe roa kua tau - Long-cherished dream becomes a reality

Te kapa haka mo te tūwheratanga o te whare – Unitec’s whānau at the opening ceremony

Te Noho Kotahitanga was officially opened on Friday, March 13, 2009 in front of more than 1000 people, on hand to be part of Unitec history.

The marae confirms Unitec’s commitment to its partnership document, ‘Te Noho Kotahitanga’, created in 2001 to show the institution’s commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi. It enables Unitec to advance the aim of having a Māori dimension to its teaching and research.

The marae has already attracted much interest with staff and students keen to learn more about it. Unitec’s Maia Māori Development Centre has the task of being the guardian of the marae.

Tōnā rerekētanga - Marae with a difference

The centrepiece of Te Noho Kotahitanga marae is the magnificent wharenui whare whakairo (carved meeting house) – the first for nearly a century that has been created in the traditional fashion, reflecting Lyonel’s desire to revive the languishing art of building with structural integrity.
He toi whakairo, he mana tangata

While the modern way of building a marae is to first construct the building and then retrospectively add the carvings, the Unitec marae is based on the traditional way houses were built: structurally it is held up by the carvings and this approach has a profound influence on how the art integrates with that structure, so where possible traditional methodologies have been implemented.

Pūmau ki te tūtukitanga - Commitment to achievement

“Where there is artistic integrity, there is human dignity.”

“This is my third wharenui and most ambitious. I wanted to do something new, not just decorate a box, but create a showcase for our culture that’s unique in the world. To do that I had to turn the clock back 100 years, look at the traditional techniques, and then work out how modern construction methods could be used to complement those techniques, given that this wharenui is maybe three times bigger than the classical model.”

While the modern way of building a marae is to first construct the whare and then add the carvings, the Unitec marae is based on the traditional way houses were built: structurally it is held up by the carvings and where possible traditional methodologies have been implemented.

The wharenui will be used by all Unitec staff and students for powhiri, marae and cultural awareness workshops, conferences, noho marae (overnight stay) and hui. It will also serve as a hub for teaching and learning about te ao Māori. Our inspiring Matauranga Māori electives, for example, are held at the wharenui. These electives explore the many layers of Māori culture, te reo Māori, protocols of the marae, Māori philosophy and cosmology, and arts such as Ta Moko (tattoing) and Raranga (weaving).

The marae is inclusive: a place of physical and spiritual comfort; a place for sharing of all cultures.

Ngā Mihi - Acknowledgments

    ASB Community Trust
    Southern Trust
    Sky City Trust
    The Trusts Charitable Foundation
    David Levene Charitable Trust
    Fletcher Construction
    Te Puni Kokiri
    Creative New Zealand
    John Gow
    J R McKenzie Trust
    Sir John Logan Campbell Trust
    Pete Bossley
    New Zealand Community Trust

Te Noho Kotahitanga Marae - Ngā mihi, thanks