New Zealand's oldest wharenui (meeting house,) Te Hau ki Turanga, housed by Te Papa, has had a chequered past, and its eventful life is set to continue a while yet.
The totara whare was built in Manuteke, Gisborne, in 1842 under the direction of Raharuhi Rukupo, a carver and chief of the Rongowhakaata tribe.
Rukupo carved the whare in remembrance of his elder brother, Tamati Waka Mangere, who had passed on the mantle of chieftainship to Rukupo at his death. The whare became known as a beautiful work of art.
In 1865, the first disturbance of its history came with an offer of purchase from the government, which Rukupo refused.
Minister of Native Affairs James Richmond returned in 1867 with orders for confiscation. The whare was dismantled and removed despite local protest, although £100 was distributed as payment.
Rukupo petitioned to have the whare returned later that year, but was rebuffed.
Rongowhakaata leaders again petitioned the government in 1878, five years after Rukupo's death. The Native Affairs select committee recommended a further £300 be paid.
Between 1867 and 1996, the meeting house was moved three times, from Gisborne to Wellington, then from the Colonial Museum to the Dominion Museum on Buckle St.
In 1996, Rongowhakaata representatives escorted it down Tory St to a new home in Te Papa. As a result of Rongowhakaata claims made to the Waitangi Tribunal, the whare will be moved one last time - the iwi's settlement includes a plan for it to be returned to its rightful owners by 2017.
- Source: Waitangi Tribunal, Te Papa website
- The Dominion Post
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