Hapū welcomed as refurbished Martinborough town hall reopens

11:37 pm on 10 December 2018

Hundreds turned out for the opening of Te Waihinga Community Centre in Martinborough today, a building that reflects the heritage and whakapapa of the small rural town.

Te Waihinga Community Centre.

Te Waihinga Community Centre. Photo: RNZ / Meriana Johnsen

It has taken six years to get the $5.3 million project to completion but today the refurbished town hall and adjoining community was opened with a powhiri, waiata, speeches and the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The pōwhiri welcomed local hapū Ngāti Hikawera back on to their whenua after over a century of displacement.

Ngāti Hikawera whānau came from across the country to give their blessing for the name Te Waihinga, which means cascading waters and was the original name of the town.

Ngāti Hikawera rangatira Tiki-Rangimarie Mahupuku McGregor said the iwi gave their blessing only after the local council consulted with them last week.

"Some of the conditions was that as a council they recognised Ngāti Hikawera back on their whenua," Mr McGrergor said.

"We're a family that have been sleeping for a long but just through this building, we have been reawakened."

Local hapu Ngāti Hikawera.

Local hapu Ngāti Hikawera. Photo: RNZ / Meriana Johnsen

A pou (carved post) standing at the local museum Ara Toi will also be placed in the centre in early February along with some other taonga from the hapū.

Project manager Victoria Read said it was a challenge to design the community hub, which included a Plunket, library, cafe and visitor centre. It sits alongside the 106-year-old town hall.

"We had the old and grand with the town hall and we really wanted this new celebration of our community to be attached to it so they've really done that in the style of a modern lean to and you can look up at the rafters and think about the big old rafters in the woolsheds around the district," Ms Read said.

'It has been a fight to save the town hall, a heritage building that was threatened with demolition in the early 2000's due to poor earthquake ratings.

Waihinga Charitable Trust chair Max Stevens went to council to fund the earthquake strengthening of the building, who agreed to contribute $900,000 if the community came up with the rest of the funds for the hall's refurbishment.

Ngāti Hikawera rangatira Tiki-Rangimarie Mahupuku McGregor.

Ngāti Hikawera rangatira Tiki-Rangimarie Mahupuku McGregor. Photo: RNZ / Meriana Johnsen

The idea for a community hub was suggested by some of the locals as the Plunket and local library needed new buildings and it was thought the town hall would get more use if it was part of a community centre.

While most locals were keen on the community hub, Mr Stevens said they came up against some strong opposition for the refurbishment of the town hall.

"It was really upsetting because we'd done a lot of consultation and we were doing what we were doing, we thought was for the community."

But he said seeing the hundreds of local streaming in to the town hall made it all worth it.

"The town's flourishing and having a community hub like this will only help in future years."

Local winemaker Mr Paton said it was great to see this quiet end of town rejuvenated.

"Now we'll all be here and we will use it as a hub I know because Martinborough has a real collective energy."

The second phase of the project will include a playground upgrade and car park.

Locals gather for the Te Waihinga Community Centre opening.

Locals gather for the Te Waihinga Community Centre opening. Photo: RNZ / Meriana Johnsen