China 'home' for Maori

Building a marae in China is about establishing a foothold back to the homeland, says Northcote's Awataha Marae leader and spokesman Anthony Wilson.

"It's like a homecoming for Maori people," says Mr Wilson of Awataha's project to erect a Maori cultural village in Qufu city in China's northeast province of Shandong.

He says gene mapping scientists point to China and south-east Asia as where Maori originated.

Mr Wilson says their ancestors were master navigators who sailed at sea in search of new lands.

"There is a bit of evidence pointing to an Asian link for Maori and there is an historical, cultural and spiritual side to this project," he says.

"It's a big thing for us all.

"It's like reconnecting with our roots and going back to where we really came from."

Awataha is racing against time to finish work on the two-hectare village complete with a 300 square metre wharenui or meeting house and a 35 metre-tall waharoa or gateway.

The village will serve as gateway to the 670ha, $400 million New Zealand Qufu Gardens - a theme park showcasing the best of New Zealand in China. Awataha is a major player in the project.

It will also feature a 54-hole golf course, a dairy farm, organic orchards, vineyard and winery, equestrian club, spa resort, luxury hotels and villas and an international school.

The park's grand opening is scheduled for June.

More than reconnecting with the past, Mr Wilson says the project ushers in a bright new future for Maori.

"Even if we didn't come from China or south-east Asia at all, it is still imperative for us as a people to develop a strong partnership with a big economic force such as China."

North Shore Times