29 Apr 2021

Pacific Trust seeks Wellington Council approval for new site

7:10 pm on 29 April 2021

The Fale Malae Trust is hoping the Wellington City Council will approve its new preferred site of Frank Kitts Park for a multi-purpose Pacific cultural centre.

The Fale Malae Trust plans to build an iconic, nationally significant building that will be a focal point for all New Zealanders to gather, learn and celebrate the contribution that Pasifika arts, cultures, and histories make to New Zealand's national identity.

There was a strong Pacific presence at the Wellington City Council chambers meeting as trust chair Adrian Orr updated councillors and supporters.

He said that the Trust's preferred site is now Frank Kitts Park, on Wellington's waterfront.

Last March, Wellington city councillors gave the Trust the green light to work on a fale malae or cultural centre at a proposed central site.

The Bunny St site, where Pacific communities want to build a Fale Malae - or hub for Pacific communities.

The Bunny St site, where Pacific communities want to build a Fale Malae - or hub for Pacific communities. Photo: GOOGLE STREET VIEW

But a company employed by the trust to look at engineering issues advised against the original site.

Here's the company's managing director, Maurice Clark:

"The main reason was that it was too crammed for a start, but it was smack bang in the middle of a view shaft. The view when you come out the railway station, and you look upto parliament, it was going to block the view of parliament."

The Trust then explored alternative sites with greater land are, and fewer planning and resource consent hurdles.

It now considers that Frank Kitts park is an ideal solution, particularly given the strong relationship of the site to the sea and local tangata whenua.

(L-R) Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban and Sasha Gibb

(L-R) Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban and Sasha Gibb Photo: RNZ Pacific

Here's Trust member, Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban.

"At Frank Kitts park, it's the ocean, we are an oceanic culture, and also we have a connection to Mana Whenua, Te Atiawa and Tangata Whenua. New Zealand needs to finally own it's identity as a Pacific nation and this is symbolic of how we can celebrate that."

Sasha Gibb of the NZ Festival of the Arts was there to support the Malae Fono Trust.

She says she's excited about what the new multi-purpose venue could offer Pacific artists.

"We need more of those spaces where our artists can come to together, in a space that they have real ownership over and to be able to have talanoa, to be able to present works in a space that our communities feel that they also have stake in and ownership over."

(L-R) Siuola Vaipuna, Felisa Lini, Michael Turnbull, Edwina Harris and Aaron Itinteang.

(L-R) Siuola Vaipuna, Felisa Lini, Michael Turnbull, Edwina Harris and Aaron Itinteang. Photo: RNZ Pacific

A huge number of young Pasifika were at the meeting.

Aaron Itinteang, the academic officer for the Pasifika students Council at Victoria University, says the Malae Fono would showcase Wellington's commitment to Pacific people.

"You would have to be pretty ignorant to not see the massive contribution to the great society of New Zealand, and I think this physical representation is just something that kids growing up can see and be like, that's the Beehive, oh this is the fale malae"

And another young Pasifika, Edwina Harris, who is the President of the Pasifika Council at Victoria University, says having such a Pacific space is long overdue.

"I'm a New Zealand born Pacific Islander and I think this is really important to our sense of place and sense of belonging. Yes we can have churches and stuff but a lot of us don't associate with church, so to have such a structure that represents all Pasifika culture where we are all welcomed is long overdue.

And Michael Turnbull, who is the President Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association, came along to support his fellow students.

"He said he wasn't surprised at the strong Pacific turnout at the meeting adding that it's the most packed he has ever seen that council chamber, and that he believes for all the right causes."

Siuola Vaipuna, Vice-President for Pasifika student council at Victoria, said it was really heartwarming to see the strong support for the Malae Fale.

"As an international student from the Pacific, having a space like this would really give me a sense of belonging and a sense of home.

And this Malae Fale would give us that encouragement to be around Wellington, and hopefully it would draw more international students to come to Wellington," she said.

And Felisa Lini from Vanuatu, who is studying in New Zealand, says she believes a Pacific cultural centre space would benefit everyone.

"For this project, I feel like New Zealand is embracing her identity as a Pacific nation, and I feel really proud of the ties and close relationship that we [NZ and Vanuatu] share. I feel having a place such as this would be somewhere our people, Ni-Vanuatu people, all Melanesian people, all Pasifika people can call home and be proud of," she said.

The government allocated $10 million in the 2020 budget to the project, with $1 million immediately available for planning and design work, including securing a suitable site.

The trust will now begin fundraising.

Pasifika students supporting the Fale Malae Trust

Pasifika students supporting the Fale Malae Trust Photo: RNZ Pacific