Mauri stone signals new start

    Kaumatua Peggy Peek was emotional at the ceremony as she was one of the only Waihopai Runaka members who was part of the establishment of the Murihiku Marae in 1983.

    IT is the dawn of a new day, a new building and a new beginning for the Southland community, the chairman of the Waihopai Runaka says.

    A ceremony was held yesterday for the customary laying of a Mauri stone to signal the start of construction of the redevelopment of Murihiku marae.

    Last year, the Government announced $9 million towards the $13.5 million project which was described by finance minister Grant Robertson as unique.

    Runaka whanau and the project team gathered at the site in Invercargill for the pre-dawn ceremony.

    Murihiku Marae redevelopment project co-ordination Deborah Paterson said the Mauri stone represents the life force or the essence of the building and also of the work which would be done there.

    The stones were used by Maori to prepare people or places to receive mana, she said.

    ‘‘From this point on, now the building has a life force and so actually has a personality — and we refer to her as she.

    ‘‘It also guards all the men who are working here and our whanau.’’

    Kaumatua Peggy Peek was emotional at the ceremony as she was one of the only Runaka members who was there when the marae was established in 1983.

    She said before the marae construction, the Maori community usually gathered at people’s homes or at halls.

    ‘‘So, 60 years ago, we decided it was time to build a [Maori] community hub for our people. However, then we changed our mind and decided to think bigger and build a marae.

    ‘‘I was part of the group who decided to build this for our community and I feel honoured.’’

    Waihopai Runaka chairman Cyril Gilroy was pleased to see young and old members of the marae at the ceremony.

    He said the new development was exciting and he hoped it would attract many people from the community.

    ‘‘Today it is the dawn of a new building. It is the dawn of a new day for our community.’’