Immersive cultural and environmental education space on the waterfront opens to the public

Kia tāwhiwhi ki ngā atua - Be intertwined with the environment

Last Updated : 13 Sep 2023
OA Te Wharekura Opening Exterior

The 108-year-old heritage kiosk next to the Tāmaki Makaurau Downtown Ferry Terminal has been repurposed into a cultural and marine education space to create a new public waterfront destination.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, tangata whenua of central Tāmaki, and Te Kaunihera o Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland Council have partnered to deliver Te Wharekura, a kaupapa / project which celebrates tangata whenua and the cultural richness of Te Waitematā, and which aims to inspire its protection.

Te Wharekura is one of the projects highlighted in the draft Waitematā Local Board Plan. It has been designed to encourage kōrero about the state of the environment as well as sharing stories of the history and current activities of tangata whenua for the benefit of all.

Kīngi Makoare, delivers the mihi whakatau at the dawn blessing of Te Wharekura.

Kīngi Makoare, delivers the mihi whakatau at the dawn blessing of Te Wharekura.

Kīngi Makoare, Pou Hāpai Tikanga Taiao for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei celebrates the kaupapa of Te Wharekura.

“We have always considered the protection of te Waitematā as essential to the wellbeing of our people.

“When the environment is healthy and thriving, so too are the people. By sharing our stories and heritage, Te Wharekura inspires everyone living in and visiting Tāmaki Makaurau to treat the water as a taonga, a prized possession.”

Housed in a beautiful, category B heritage kiosk, with the re-design respecting its heritage values, Te Wharekura features the mahi toi / artwork of senior Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei ringatoi / artists Graham Tipene, Hana Maihi, Jodi-Ann Warbrick, Leah Warbrick, Joanne Maihi and Kororia Witika which will be permanently located there. Robbie Pāora of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei describes the process of designing the whare.

“The walls of Te Wharekura celebrate the beauty of our unique and rich culture through our reo, our pūrakau, our kōrero, our mahi toi, our waiata, and through a variety of physical taonga and interactive media housed within the space.
“Importantly, Te Wharekura acts as a learning space / laboratory for environmental education, blending kōrero tuku iho and western science to inform and uplift all who visit the space, with a particular focus on tamariki and rangatahi from kura / schools across the region.”

One literal translation of Te Wharekura is a “house of learning”. The name was gifted by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and reflects a shared aspiration to bring minds and hearts together. True to this spirit of collaboration and inclusion, all members of the public are able to visit and participate in the immersive experience of Te Wharekura at no charge.

Located at the western end of Te Wānanga in Quay Street, Te Wharekura injects cultural vibrancy and environmental awareness and education into the waterfront space that Aucklanders and visitors are drawn to and love.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei perform haka at the opening of Te Wharekura.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei perform haka at the opening of Te Wharekura.

With kaitiakitanga for Te Wharekura being held by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei as ahi-kā and tangata whenua for the central city and isthmus, in future, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei will apply their tikanga to provide opportunities for other iwi to share their mātauranga in this space. The project will deliver a rich display of environmental values, and mātauranga Māori that share the historical relationships and stories fundamental to the past, present and future of te Waitematā and Tāmaki.

Portfolio Lead for Te Kaunihera Māori Outcomes, Councillor Kerrin Leoni (Ngāti Paoa, Ngāi Takoto and Ngāti Kuri) is pleased to see the shared commitment of Te Kaunihera and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei to improve waterways manifested in Te Wharekura.

“Holistic thinking and collaboration is essential when it comes to addressing the health of our natural environment. It is important that Te Kaunihera continues to partner with tangata whenua in a manner that reflects Taiao ora, Tangata ora – ‘If the natural world is healthy, so too are the people’.”

Te Wharekura is open with free entry to the public from 10am to 4pm every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 14 September 2023.

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