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Opening of Te Arawa Whare Waka brings five-year Rotorua lakefront development to an end

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A dawn karakia blessed the opening of Te Arawa Whare Waka on the shores of Lake Rotorua this morning.

A dawn karakia has marked the official opening of Te Arawa Whare Waka and brought to a close the five-year Rotorua lakefront development project.

In a statement, Te Arawa Waka Trust trustee Pererika Makiha said the blessing ceremony was about acknowledging those who have passed, as well as marking the opening of the new building.

Moving the 34-year-old war canoe from outside the Energy Events Centre to the lakefront was one of the first projects to get under way as part of the development, and the last major work to be completed.

The opening of Te Arawa Whare Waka on the shores of Lake Rotorua.
The opening of Te Arawa Whare Waka on the shores of Lake Rotorua.

Makiha said they particularly acknowledged Te Putuangaanga Mihaka and Laurie Durand, whose passion for all forms of waka had resulted in the establishment of the Whare Waka.

“Their passion is acknowledged by the blessing of the two punga [anchor stones, Tokaparore and Tuterangiharuru] which are situated at each end of the Whare Waka.”

Local business DCA Architects designed the Whare Waka in collaboration with Te Arawa artist and master carver Lyonel Grant, Te Arawa Waka Trust and BSK Consulting Engineers.

It was Grant who hand-made the waka taua in 1989 using traditional techniques and tools, and the waka’s function of transporting war parties traditionally held great mana [prestige].

The waka taua "Te Arawa" was hand-made by artist and master carver Lyonel Grant in 1989.
The waka taua “Te Arawa” was hand-made by artist and master carver Lyonel Grant in 1989.

Grant also created artwork for the development, including the pou tumu that stand along the lake edge.

The Whare Waka has glass walls that protect the “Te Arawa” taonga while allowing visitors to view and connect with it. Large glass doors at both ends of the building allow the waka to be moved out for use in cultural events.

Construction on the Whare Waka began in August 2023, with work continuing to be carried out throughout summer by Urbo Homes contractors, alongside Grant and Te Arawa Waka Trust.

Rotorua Mayor Tania Tapsell at the opening of Te Arawa Whare Waka on the shores of Lake Rotorua.
Rotorua Mayor Tania Tapsell at the opening of Te Arawa Whare Waka on the shores of Lake Rotorua.

In a statement, Rotorua Lakes Council said funding from Kānoa – Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit had supported the construction of the building and the artistic elements.



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