Ground­break­ing marae turns 30

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By KARINA ABADIA

The open­ing of the marae at the Univer­sity of Auck­land’s Fac­ulty of Ed­u­ca­tion was a proud mo­ment for staff mem­ber Bruce Taplin.

The wharenui Tu­tahi Tonu was only the sec­ond meeting house on a ter­tiary cam­pus when it was com­pleted 30 years ago this month.

The fac­ulty cel­e­brated the mile­stone with a lowkey hangi and a for­mal din­ner last week.

Mr Taplin was a 23-year-old stu­dent at the time and he was a key part of pro­ceed­ings.

He helped to com­pose a wero, or chal­lenge, which he and around 40 stu­dents per­formed at the open­ing.

‘‘It was quite a spir­i­tual and emo­tional oc­ca­sion start­ing with the dawn ceremony which was shrouded in mist and then the many groups that were wel­comed on through­out the day.’’

In­vited guests in­cluded mem­bers of lo­cal iwi as well as staff from var­i­ous govern­ment de­part­ments and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions.

The idea of es­tab­lish­ing a marae on the site was pro­posed by trainee teacher Mahuta Tuhura in 1973 and it was fi­nally com­pleted on Novem­ber 19, 1983.

The carv­ings were more 3-D than tra- di­tional ones, which made it the first fully carved meeting house in a New Zealand ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tion.

It had taken master carver Mark Klar­i­cich two years to com­plete.

He was only about 18 at the time but he had a gift, Mr Taplin says.

Tu­tahi Tonu trans­lates as ‘‘we stand united and tall to­gether’’.

The com­ing to­gether of peo­ple and cul­tures is re­flected in its carv­ings, he says.

There are ref­er­ences to Maui leg­ends and Matariki as well as the iwi and cul­tures rep­re­sented at the col­lege.

One post was carved by a Pakeha stu­dent, there are also Pa­cific Is­land carv­ings and an­other post that is a com­pi­la­tion of small carv­ings made by stu­dents who stud­ied there even be­fore it was com­pleted.

It quickly be­came a place where peo­ple con­gre­gated, Mr Taplin says.

‘‘Many of the Maori stu­dents grav­i­tated to­wards the marae. It gave us a fo­cus and it was like a haven for us.’’

It re­mains an im­por­tant part of cam­pus life with all new staff and stu­dents be­ing wel­comed onto the marae.

A lot of vis­i­tors come through its doors, mainly from Auck­land and North­land schools but also from over­seas.

‘‘Marae seem to be a nat­u­ral part of the ed­u­ca­tion scene now.

‘‘But at the time this marae show­cased what could be achieved in a ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tion, Mr Taplin says.

Photo: KARINA ABADIA

In­no­va­tive de­sign: Fac­ulty of Ed­u­ca­tion staff mem­ber Bruce Taplin out­side Tu­tahi Tonu which was the first fully-carved meeting house in a ter­tiary in­stu­tion when it opened in 1983.

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