4 May 2015

New opportunities for Hinemihi

8:59 pm on 4 May 2015

Officials managing a wharenui in Britain have been thrown a lifeline, just days after a mansion neighbouring the meeting house was gutted by fire.

An unidentified Maori group in front of the Hinemihi meeting house at Te Wairoa in the 1880s.

An unidentified Maori group in front of the Hinemihi meeting house at Te Wairoa in the 1880s. Photo: Burton Brothers (Dunedin, N.Z.). Burton Brothers, 1868-1898 (Firm, Dunedin) : Ref: PA7-19-19. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22697676

An advisor to Te Maru o Hinemihi, which looks after the meeting house - Jim Schuster - said taking the whare, Hinemihi, would leave English authorities with one less thing to worry about.

"This is an opportunity for them. It takes one more problem off their plate and they can then deal with the main house, Clandon House.

"And probably let Hinemihi come home where she can be cared for by the people where she came from."

Although Hinemihi was spared, some Māori artefacts in the mansion were destroyed.

Some of the taonga, previously owned by the fourth Earl of Onslow, were gifted to his son, Victor Alexander Herbert Huia Onslow, by the lower North Island hapū of Ngāti Huia.

A spokesperson, Rutene Waaka, said the former New Zealand governor general's son, Huia Onslow, was given a Māori blessing in the late 1890s by its paramount chief, Tamihana Te Hoia.

"From Tamihana, he passed the baby around to all the chiefs and chieftainess, [who] were gathered there."

He said he was given a greenstone taonga shaped like a small hockey stick by Heni te Rei, who was the daughter of the late chief, Matene te Whiwhi, which was a family heirloom of the Ngati Toa leader, Te Rangihaeata, who was born in Kawhia.

Mr Waaka said it was devastating that the treasures the hapu had for years been trying to get repatriated had been destroyed.

He said Ngāti Huia wanted them back because they were given to the Onslow family, not to the state.

Alexander Herbert Huia Onslow

Alexander Herbert Huia Onslow Photo: Te Papa Tongarewa

"Now, talking about the taonga that our elders have given, and talking about repatriation... I don't think it's mana-enhancing for anybody, especially our tūpuna who have gone. Because they gave it with the right intentions."

Meanwhile, a Māori language advocate, Mark Bradley, whose family is from Surrey, hoped that whatever is decided for the wharenui, Hinemihi, there would still be a Māori presence.

"A fully functional Marae with a cultural centre, much like they have Hawaii, would be a fantastic way of creating a Māori space in Europe that could operate in a similar way to the cultural centre does in Hawaii.

"[It would] be a home away from home for Māori and Pasifika people and also [would] be a cultural hub for Europe, [which] is very interested in kaupapa Māori and Māori art."

Mr Schuster of Te Arawa liked the idea.

"I think it's a great idea too. Currently, if Ngāti Rānana [members] go down to Hinemihi, they've got to travel by train from London, which is about an hour and 20 minutes, by train I think, down to Hinemihi.

"They have their day there, then they've got to pack up and travel all the way home again. At the moment, Hinemihi isn't a place where they can stay overnight."

Mr Schuster said whatever happens to the meeting house, and any cultural replacement, would need to be explored by several groups, including Ngāti Rānana and the New Zealand government.