A historic reopening
by Andy Bryenton
Locals, visitors and dignitaries alike joined a respectful crowd of whanau and guests as Waikara Marae was officially reopened last Saturday, following the rebuild of their wharekai.
The reopening, a significant milestone for the coastal marae, which stands just north of Maunganui Bluff in the West Kaipara, comes after three and a half years of reconstruction following a disastrous fire that razed the dining reception area, traditionally known as the wharekai and a social hub of any marae. Despite the heroic actions of locals, the fire, caused by an electrical fault, devastated the dining hall as firefighters rushed to respond to the remote location. The existing building had stood since it was constructed by locals in 1985.
Dignitaries including local kaumatua and kuia, representatives of national and local government and senior representatives of Ngapuhi gathered at dawn to be formally welcomed onto the marae, following the traditional formal round of waiata and karakia as the sun rose over the hills. The impressive new facilities include the latest in commercial kitchenware and the means to accommodate large gatherings. Locals have worked around the usual functions of community life during the extensive repair and rebuilding project, utilising marquee tents and assistance from other local marae. Now restored, it takes its position once more as a place of great social and cultural importance.