A dawn ceremony to bless new and restored carvings on Te Amorangi, one of the whare on Whakaoriori, was led by Rangitāne and UCOL leaders on 25 August.
The carvings complete the upgrade of Te Amorangi. Te Amorangi can now sleep up to 40 people and features state of the art toilet and shower facilities, a tetraplegic bathroom, new kitchen, modern fire systems, and heating/ventilation.
A number of speakers acknowledged the work that has gone into the restoration. Suni Brown, Chair of Rangitāne o Wairarapa Trust spoke, followed by Mei Manaia Warakihi Stevens-Matiaha for Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa. Over 70 people attended.
Work began in April 2021 to upgrade Te Amorangi for overnight stays and restore the carvings, which have stood on the building since 1994. Stephen (Tipene) Kawana led the restoration of the carvings after working on the originals as an ākonga in the early 1990s. Kaumatua Mike Kawana said several carvings had deteriorated over time due to exposure to the elements and were turned to ashes. Mihirangi Hollings, Chief Executive of Rangitāne o Wairarapa and UCOL Chief Executive Linda Sissons helped to bury the ashes from those carvings in the garden area of the marae ātea.
During his kōrero, Matua Mike (pictured above) explained the significance of the ancestors who stand proudly atop Te Amorangi, reinforcing the message of working together to achieve goals. Rangitāne ancestor Whatonga is now positioned on the tekoteko – the carving on the front gable of Te Amorangi. Previously, Popoto was in the tekoteko position, but he is not an ancestor of Wairarapa. Ngāti Kahungunu ancestor Tamatea Ariki Nui is depicted on the other side of the tekoteko (pictured below).
UCOL Wairarapa Director Carrie McKenzie says she is proud of the work done to enhance Whakaoriori.
"The Whakaoriori marae plays a key part in our campus culture and identity. UCOL Wairarapa are proud to be the kaitiaki of a very special building and space, a marae and a wharenui, and the fact that the tipuna of our two Iwi, Rangitāne and Ngāti Kahungunu are looking over and after their uri/decendants. All ākonga are given a special welcome here each year, and each semester. I'd like to thank everyone who has been involved with the renovations and the restoration of the carvings. It is wonderful to see Whatonga take his rightful place on top of Te Amorangi." UCOL Wairarapa held an awakening in February 2022 so the marae could be used while the carvings were being completed.
UCOL Board Chair, Verne Atmore, said "This whare has supported 31 years of students that have passed through our doors, as the Wairarapa Community Polytechnic for the first 10 years and then as UCOL Wairarapa for the following 21. As we head into Te Pūkenga, the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology, we bring this strong history and beautiful whare with us."
Whakaoriori Marae was originally opened in 1991 by Cannon Wi Te Tau Huata, a Ngāti Kahungungu rangatira. Guests at the opening included MP Whetu Tirakatene-Sullivan, Ngāti Kahungunu leader Ben Couch, and Rangitāne rangatira Koro Kuki Rimene. During the opening Mihirangi Hollings - now Chief Executive of Rangitāne o Wairarapa - was the young wāhine (puhi) who customarily entered the wharenui first to lift the tapu. 31 years later, Hollings, attended the re-opening.
Located at UCOL Wairarapa, Whakaoriori has provided opportunities for ākonga | students and kaimahi | staff to learn about tikanga and to increase cultural competency and understanding across the campus.