Dunedin marae welcomes hundreds

TREATY FESTIVAL: Mayor David Cull returns to his seat after a speech at Otakou Marae.
TREATY FESTIVAL: Mayor David Cull returns to his seat after a speech at Otakou Marae.

Hundreds of visitors have been welcomed on to Otakou Marae, Dunedin, in brilliant sunshine for the South’s Ngai Tahu Treaty Festival, aimed at bringing community together.

The welcome came from local Ngai Tahu gathered outside the marae’s ornate meeting house, Tamatea.

Otakou is near one of three locations, which include Te Rau Aroha Marae, near Bluff, and Onuku Marae on Banks Peninsula, where Ngai Tahu signed the Treaty in 1840. Each year the Ngai Tahu Waitangi Day commemorations rotate between the three.

Runanga chairman Edward Ellison emphasised Ngai Tahu’s pleasure that so many had turned out for the festival.

“It’s getting bigger and bigger, I can see.”

In recent years, organisers have encouraged the community to come to the event, in keeping with Ngai Tahu’s wish to build partnerships and relationships in the community to its far-flung corners, he said.

On behalf of guests Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull delivered an eloquent kaikorero,  then translated it into English.

“To my noble chiefs that are gathered here, greetings to you all. To the ancestral house Tamatea stand tall. To those who have passed through the veil, go in peace to the unawakening resting place.”

Cull said later he put in a fair bit of practice for the speech and conceded it was a little nerve-wracking.

“For those of us who haven’t spent a great deal of time on a marae and are not fluent in Te Reo, it’s a challenge, but it’s a matter of respect for the host people and I’m delighted to give it a go.”

Cull said today was about strengthening the relationship between the Mana Whenua in the Dunedin community and the community as a whole.

“The original face of this community and this place was the Mana Whenua,’’ he said.

“So, it’s about building that relationship.

“The crest of Dunedin has a Maori warrior on one side and a Highlander on the other and that was the partnership that goes back to the formation of the city. It’s a matter of building on that and strengthening it.”

After the welcome, Cull joined Sir Mark Solomon, kaiwhakahaere of Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu in an open discussion about how contemporary Treaty partnerships can support the economic aspirations of  regional communities.

 Sir Mark indicated communities and officials coming together for the Treaty celebration is as it should be, the norm.

“We are part of the community and we embrace the community and, of course, this is one of our centres where our people are occupied, but we’ve always had relationships with people, with the [Dunedin City] Council, with all of Dunedin.”

Fairfax Media