LIttle marae with big heart marks 75th year

Last updated 11:48 21/10/2008

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Throughout its 75 year history Te Tatau o te Po, the little wharenui (meeting house) at 437 Hutt Road, has opened its doors to people of all races and creeds, and from all corners of the nation.

Tangi, hui, birthdays, family celebrations, church events, accommodation for visiting basketball, league and other sports teams...."It was a great little marae for all of that," says kaumatua Sam Jackson.

This Labour Weekend the doors will be thrown open again, and those of a marquee to be erected in the carpark.  It's Te Tatau o te Po's 75th jubilee celebration and all are welcome, say John and Joan Warren.

Organisers gave up trying to record registrations. 

"It's a Maori celebration - whoever arrives, arrives," John says.  The catering is aimed at a crowd of 250 or so.  "It always works out."

The powhiri is at 11am on Saturday.  After lunch, a 50-page history of the marae written by Joan and Muri Parata will be launched.  Muri was secretary of Te Tatau o te Po from the 1950s and Joan from 1970-1996.  They've delved into original ownership of the land and how families of the day put up the building in the middle of the harsh depression years. 

Those hard beginnings are why it never had any elaborate carvings, says John, who grew up with the marae.  It used to have nearly two acres of land around it - land of former chief Te Puni  that was named Puke Ariki after the pa in New Plymouth.  John and his mates would play sport on the grass; their parents would cook outside and there was a flagpole.  A big portion of the land was taken for development of the Western Hutt Rd. 

Still, it's the oldest marae in the Wellington region that remains on the exact site where it was first built.

Kaumatua Sam and June Jackson confirm it has always been home to Taranaki Maori visiting south. It was Taranaki chiefs which gave the wharenui its name. Te Tatau o te Po (‘Door to the Night') is a reference to a very old legend important to both Maori and Pacific people.

Recent media reports suggest that because the site is being squeezed by the Dowse Interchange project, the wharenui would be shifted to land on Petone Esplanade.  But John, deputy chairman of the marae committee, says that decision has not been made.  It's up to the marae trustees, who will consult with Taranaki iwi and locals.

"Right now our focus is on the 75th."

The building has had a repaint and spruce-up (support from neighbours HireQuip was much appreciated) in anticipation of the gathering, which will include a mix & mingle and dinner on Saturday, and a church service (11am) and lunch on Sunday.

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