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It is a great pleasure to be here with you all today.
I acknowledge Ngāi Tūāhuriri and the trustees of Te Whatu Manawa Māoritanga o Rehua Trust Board.
The opening of six new apartments on these grounds signifies more than an increase in much-needed housing for Ōtautahi.
This new chapter in the life of Rehua Marae expresses the manaakitanga and aroha of the founding kaumātua that continues today.
In the late 1950s, trade apprentices volunteered their labour to help build and carve Te Whatu Manawa Māoritanga o Rehua.
The urban wharenui opened in 1960, followed six years later by the Māori Trade Training hostel.
Māori Trade Training hostel
Young tāne came from throughout Aotearoa to learn the trades here in Ōtautahi as part of the Māori Affairs Trade Training Scheme at the time.
They were taught how to become painters, mechanics and carpenters and they were given cheap accommodation in a community-based, Christian atmosphere.
Some of you are here at the opening today.
Many of you will remember those days when this was your home.
When the camaraderie you shared eased the pangs of sadness, missing whānau while living and learning in a new city.
Some of you may have even formed lifelong friendships here before the hostel closed in the early 1980s.
Some of the trainees remained here in Te Waipounamu.
Like the old boy, Ash Leatherby, who is here today and is now the southern manager for Master Painters New Zealand.
Ash came here as a 17-year-old to study painting and decorating.
It marked the beginning of a successful working life that’s included owning two businesses.
I mention this history because while the purpose of the building has changed,
its heart and soul has lived on in the people that have passed through it.
When Ralph Hanan, the former Minister of Māori Affairs, opened the building in 1966.
He said it would improve “the social, cultural and environmental wellbeing of our Māori community – and community is at the heart of Rehua Marae”.
His words hold true today.
New apartment block
Since the hostel was closed, the building has remained a special place for whānau in Ōtautahi.
A place for those seeking a communal and supportive Māori community.
The six affordable rental apartments will continue the tradition of wrap-around care and service.
They will nurture and protect new generations of whānau, providing a comfortable environment for whānau who want to take part in marae life.
The repurposed building features two 2-bedroom units, two 1-bedroom units and two 1-bedroom studios.
Common areas on the ground floor are used for health and wellbeing services including a whānau room, nurses’ clinic, rongoā services and the marae office.
The new housing is in addition to four kaumātua flats that have been on the marae grounds for some time.
Te Puni Kōkiri has invested $2.4 million in the project, with the Trust contributing a further $330,000.
Additional funding has come from the Department of Internal Affairs ($350,000) and the Rata Foundation ($200,000).
Te Koti Te Rato
I would like to mention the significance of the name of the new apartment block, Te Koti Te Rato because it connects past and present.
Te Koti Te Rato was a Wesleyan missionary from Ngāti Kahungunu.
He married Irihāpeti Mokiho of Ngāi Tūahuriri and lived at nearby Rāpaki in the mid to late 1800s.
He was a man of mana whose name was gifted to Rehua and the hostel by sisters Te Kiato Rīwai and Hinerua Rīwai Couch from Rāpaki.
Carrying over his name to the new apartment block shows that he is still regarded with immense respect and esteem.
Koti Te Rato traveled widely throughout Te Waipounamu to compile extensive records of all Ngāi Tahu births, deaths and marriages.
Throughout his life, he played a prominent role in the church and iwi affairs in Canterbury and Otago.
I acknowledge Catherine Stuart, his great-great-granddaughter, who as a trustee, continues the close connection with Rehua.
The name Te Koti Te Rato has a stunning new physical presence through the work of Paula Rigby, an artist and marae trustee.
The artwork welcomes manuhiri to the redeveloped building, incorporating designs common to Rehua marae.
Past and future become one as whānau enter the building.
Te Whatu Manawa Māoritanga o Rehua Trust Board
I also acknowledge the perseverance of the chair and all the trustees of Te Whatu Manawa Māoritanga o Rehua Trust Board for driving this project forward.
Post-earthquake Christchurch needs more housing.
Here, whānau can rent affordable apartments at 70 percent of the market rate.
But the project’s benefits are so much more than a dollar value.
This is an opportunity for whānau to come back to the marae and to participate in events and contribute to the marae’s sustainability.
The vitality the hostel boys brought with them, I hope, will be reincarnated in the new whānau homes.
It may not be sport and music that resounds within these walls but perhaps the contented kōrero of whānau well housed.
I congratulate Te Whatu Manawa Māoritanga o Rehua Trust Board for keeping this kaupapa alive.
I also congratulate them, for putting the community at the heart of everything they do.
To quote old boy, Hori Poi, who arrived from Gisborne in 1974:
“Fifty years on from hostel life, I’m very excited about the sense of continuity the new apartments will bring.
“So many lives were shaped here and many of the old boys’ hearts are still here.”
I want to mihi to you all here today. You are carrying the mana of those who were here before you.
You are enriching the culture of the marae and safeguarding its future.