29 Jun 2020

Funding gives boost for Parihaka story to be told

9:33 am on 29 June 2020

The settlement of Parihaka in Taranaki is being given $14 million to build a visitors centre to preserve its history of non-violent resistance.

No caption

Rangi Kipa looks down on the settlement of Parihaka ahead of the Crown's apology for atrocities committed there in 1881 Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

The centre, funded from the Provincial Growth Fund, is also expected to create up to 130 jobs and help boost the local economy.

It will house taonga and an exhibition of the Parihaka story as well as providing a large space for wānanga, conferences and tour groups.

The historic site was attacked and occupied by Crown troops in 1881, and the Crown apologised in 2017.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said the invasion caused "generations of grief" for the people of Parihaka.

"When the Crown apologised in 2017 for this shocking episode in our history, its sincerest hope was that Parihaka and the Crown could acknowledge their shared past, move beyond it, and begin to work together to fulfil the vision of peaceful co-existence that Tohu and Te Whiti described.

"It is now our hope that this investment will go some way towards achieving this vision. Parihaka remains a vital symbol of non-violent action and our shared heritage. All New Zealanders should know its story and this project will help tell that story," Jones said.

A group of about 200 people from Parihaka at Parliament to witness Te Pire Haeata ki Parihaka (Parihaka Reconciliation Bill) being passed into law.

A group of about 200 people from Parihaka at Parliament to witness Te Pire Haeata ki Parihaka (Parihaka Reconciliation Bill) being passed into law Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui

'Parihaka continues to be a living community'

A Taranaki te reo Māori advocate and community leader, Dr Ruakere Hond, said "I think it's a significant first step to dealing with an issue we have been dealing with for many years and that is increasing interest has been shown towards Parihaka from the country and internationally and the ability to provide a space that is focused around those needs then allows us to act as a community without major increases in buses, campervans coming into the community among our marae.

"It will enable us to tell a story from the perspective of Parihaka itself and many of the places where Parihaka is presented it's very much told from an external perspective. This perspective will be focusing much more on what is the legacy of Tohu and Te Whiti [prophets Te Whiti-o-Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi] in today's times and how that can be put into practice I suppose.

"One of the key things is that people look towards Parihaka and consider Parihaka as history, as something in the past when in actual fact Parihaka continues to be a living community and continues to work towards fulfilling that guidance and direction that was set by Tohu and Te Whiti in their time. So seeing Parihaka as something that is living is going to be different to something potentially seen in textbooks or in museums...

"Getting this project underway gives an opportunity for Taranaki - and many of the regions are in similar positions - that the narratives that are so strongly associated with the region become more prominent. When people come into Taranaki, quite often they don't know much about that background so this gives them an opportunity to engage.

"Others come specifically to engage with that history, with that legacy and with that current environment that we are in. Providing a space for that to take place then we are able to manage all those different needs."

Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Andrew Little said the funding would help make the story of Parihaka accessible to more New Zealanders.

South Taranaki Mayor Phil Nixon said everyone needed to know and understand what happened at Parihaka and the centre would help rebuild the once thriving community.

"I am delighted for the people of Parihaka as they have waited a long time for this to happen," Nixon said.

"The investment comes at a time when the region is looking to support the local construction sector and is therefore particularly welcome. Locals helping locals with welcome support from government."

Armed constabulary prepare to advance on Parihaka pā, in Taranaki, in 1881.

Armed constabulary prepare to advance on Parihaka pā, in Taranaki, in 1881. Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library, Parihaka Album Ref: PA1-q-183-19

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said the infrastructure would future-proof the Parihaka settlement.

"Basically, endowing the village, the settlement, the site with a range of carparks, buildings and a host of other accoutrements so that we really open it up, along with the Trust that operates on behalf of the owners, so that it becomes the iconic site it always deserved to be."

Jones said the estimated 130 jobs include the construction work, though would not say how many roles would be permanent.

He told Morning Report he was "allergic to the notion" that simply taking down colonial statues or changing street names would turn round negative socio-economic stats impacting on iwi and hapū.

"It could be that this is the new spirit that is infusing current leaders of the rangitahi but my message to them is that economic development ... requires not only reviewing our history but actually putting money into projects that will generate jobs and wellbeing."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs