After more than six years in the planning, the Okaihau College marae is now officially open.
At a dawn powhiri on Friday, the sun rose as members of the community were welcomed on to the new $400,000 facility.
Whakarongorua, the wharenui, was blessed by local Ratana church minister Oneroa Pihema and other kaumatua including Wiremu Wiremu, Raupatu Stevens, Steve Taylor Senior, Andy Sarich and Hirini Kingi.
Whakarongorua, meaning ‘to teach both sides’, is a name people are welcome to interpret themselves, Okaihau College principal Alan Forgie said.
"I personally like the fact that it’s named after one of the 12 pillars of Ngapuhi," he said.
The whare kai is named Pataka A Kataraina after the late Kataraina ‘Aunty Kath’ Sarich, who contributed a lot to the school during her lifetime.
Whakarongorua is a welcome addition to the school community, which was promised a marae before Mr Forgie became principal of the college six years ago.
Since then, Mr Forgie said he had been working on this project, along with the school’s executive officer, the late Alan Oliver, and various other members of the school and community.
"I think it’s important that our school and community has its own marae," he said. "It represents the values of Okaihau College."
A special presentation was made to ex-head boy Antony Oliver on behalf of his father Alan, who contributed a lot of time and effort securing funding for the marae.
"Alan will always be remembered for the part he played in making this happen," said Wayne Weber, board of trustees chairman.
The college runs a ministry of education-funded Te Kotahitanga programme that seeks to improve educational outcomes for Maori students.
"Our students come from a variety of backgrounds but having a marae unites everyone," says Mr Forgie.
"It provides a place for students and their families to meet me outside of my office, which can be intimidating."
Whakarongorua is fully air-conditioned with a modern kitchen. It will be available for use by the community as well as for two extra classes at the college.
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