Iwi keen to put artefacts on show

21:02, Jul 29 2014
WORKING TOGETHER: Councillor Cynthia Brooks, Rangitane chairwoman Judith MacDonald, Otago University archeologist Richard Walter and deputy vice-chancellor Richard Blaikie near the Wairau lagoon.

Marlborough iwi Rangitane could join the council's town rejuvenation project by including 800-year-old artefacts from the Wairau Bar in a "cultural precinct" building in High St in Blenheim.

The first people to live in New Zealand lived on the Wairau Bar 800 years ago, and Rangitane is keen to see artefacts taken from the site during excavations from the 1940s and over the past five years returned to Marlborough.

It has been proposed that a museum to house these could be built as part of the new community and cultural hub proposed by the Marlborough District Council alongside the Taylor River in High, Wynen, and Symons streets.

As part of that proposal, the library and Millennium Art Gallery could also move there.

Rangitane chairwoman Judith MacDonald said yesterday that the iwi was keen to see its taonga (treasures) displayed where people could see them easily. There were no plans yet, but the iwi was open to suggestions, she said. It would make sense to put the cultural treasures of Marlborough close together.

There would be specialised requirements for storing the 800-year-old artefacts and it would need to be done properly, MacDonald said. It was something that would take time to achieve, with a museum for the taonga "quite a long way down the track".


There were thousands of artefacts at the Canterbury Museum from the 1940s excavations and more at Otago University from work done since 2009. The Otago University findings were "a really good thing", not just for Rangitane but the whole town, she said.

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said he had had some discussions with Rangitane and was aware of the iwi's hopes for the artefacts.

"I agree that if we are going to show off our taonga and have potentially a research centre here, it needs to be accessible to the public . . . There's a real opportunity if and when the council decides to move its information hub to High St for a discussion with Rangitane to take place."

The Wairau Bar story was "quite frankly the biggest story in New Zealand", Sowman said. The Otago University work was revealing huge amounts about New Zealand's first settlers, and showed Marlborough was the capital and cultural centre of New Zealand 800 years ago.

"A lot of Marlborough people won't even be aware of it. But there are people working fulltime on this, and it's their careers. It is huge. It's an opportunity Marlborough shouldn't let go. It's going to attract a lot of activity, so it needs to be in a central place."

Marlborough Museum director Steve Austin said the Maori colonisation of New Zealand was an "iconic" Marlborough story.

He was supportive of Rangitane's aspirations to show its taonga and was enthusiastic about working with the iwi. He would like to move the Wairau Bar exhibition and the wine exhibition from the museum at Brayshaw Park to a more central location in the council's "cultural hub".

Both MacDonald and Sowman said it was a long-term project.

Sowman said it was hard to give a timeframe for the project, but the council hoped to make a decision on the future location of the library in the "not-too-distant future". From that, the council would work with Rangitane on the concept.

The Marlborough Express