For almost four years the $1.8 million question on Wellington’s campus has been when will the Te Kuratini Marae open its doors.
And despite the fact Massey University announced work on the wharenui would be completed by 2016, students and staff have remained largely in the dark about the future of the building.
However, there may now be end in sight, with Massey confirming an opening date will hopefully be set for the first quarter of 2019.
When the project was first announced in 2015, Massey said the new-look marae would be physically re-positioned toward the centre or the “heart” of the campus.
As part of the re-vamp the existing wharenui has been converted into a wharekai and a whole new wharenui has been built.
At the time of the announcement, the then Assistant Vice-Chancellor Māori and Pasifika, Dr Selwyn Katene, said the $1.875 million construction and re-positioning project was necessary as the existing buildings and facilities needed an artistic and design upgrade.
With completion of the new marae in sight Massey University has hired Ani Morris, as the new Kaiwhakaruruhau/Marae Manager.
Ani started in her new role almost two months ago. Growing up with her Māori culture she says she is excited to move back to Wellington and take on a new challenge.
Ani says once opened, her priorities will consist of maintaining the operation of the marae complex as well as ensuring that the relationships between student and staff are strong and productive.
In addition to these tasks will be helping the Massey whānau understand what kind of space they are walking into.
The marae will not only be used by staff and students on Massey’s Wellington campus, it will also be open to external networks.
“For our campus, staff and students, it’s going to give us all the opportunity to better understand tikanga Māori in a safe space,” she says.
Ani says she is in the process of connecting with people who used to look after this space.
“I’m currently in the process of getting touch with key people that were involved with the previous marae, to make sure we use that space appropriately.
“I like to know what’s been there before, and how I can enhance that space and contribute to it well, by understanding how it was functioning before.”
The wharenui began as a prefab laboratory at Wellington Polytechnic’s Buckle St site and in 1977 was turned into a wharenui. In 1990 it was moved to its current location.
Art work is being completed by the Kāhui Toi group from the College of Creative Arts on Massey’s Wellington campus.
In a statement earlier this year, Massey University said the installation of the whakairo (art) would commence once all construction work on the wharenui and wharekai was completed.
Ani says artwork is prepared for a marae depending on the purpose of the marae – whether it’s understanding genealogy, a mana whenua perspective, or Māori lens perspective.
“It is very different depending on what people want to use it for. Each different marae will have a kaupapa that is tailor made to that space.”
Massey’s Communications Director James Gardiner says weather-tightness issues on the side doors of the marae have stalled installation of art work.
He says art cannot be installed until this weather-tightness is addressed.
He says he hopes art work will begin to be installed by the end of the year, a process which should take a few months.
From here, he says he expects the marae will be opened in the first quarter of next year.
Kōkiri Ngātahi, the Māori students’ association on the Massey Wellington campus say the new marae will be of benefit to Māori students.
“Having a Marae will influence Māori presence and status on campus. It will also benefit Māori student services, as the Marae creates a place for the group to hold events and host other rōpū.
“Kōkiri Ngātahi will have access to the Marae, giving the association a stable tūrangawaewae.”
Hine Tihore is running for the position of Maori Executive on the 2019 Massey at Wellington Students’ Association (MAWSA) Executive.
She says she is excited to see the marae’s doors opened.
"I'm excited for the Marae to open because to me it's more than just a building, it is a visual cultural representation that connects us to the campus and each other,” she says.
“It grounds us and allows us to be who we are and share who we are in the midst of the culturally intimidating environment that is academia.”
Tihore says cultural representations such as the marae play an integral part in academic success for ethnic minorities.
“That's why I initiated conversations with MAWSA and some of the Māori support staff to try and understand the Marae completion situation.
“For me, it seemed like maybe the project could be helped along by a strong student voice which is ultimately why I decided to run for Māori Exec for 2019."