Māori elders and other leaders of Whangārei have long identified the need for the restoration and reinstatement of Maori culture.
They declared that Whangārei needed to unleash the latent potential and build the cultural capacity and capability of Maori, particularly in our youth. Their vision was for a Māori cultural centre where identity and culture would be reclaimed, restored and renewed.
Since its opening in June 2019, Stage 1 of The Hihiaua Cultural Centre has built a reputation as a world class centre of excellence to preserve, create, display & promote Māori arts and culture. It is realising the dream of those visionaries of the past.
This first stage saw the renovation of an existing boatshed into a high spec carving workshop with additional learning, meeting and exhibition spaces and a laboratory/studio. A new whare waka (waka shelter) with automated launching gantries, a covered walkway and viewing platform completes this $2m stage funded by the Whangārei District Council, Foundation North and the Provincial Growth Fund. Moller Architects expertly designed and project managed the build undertaken by Whangārei construction company Arco Ltd. In 2020 Hihiaua Cultural Centre was honored to win John Scott Award for Public Architecture granted by Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects.
While the core purpose of Hihiaua Stage 1 is as a whakairo workshop for senior and trainee carvers under the watchful eye of Tai Tokerau tohunga whakairo, Te Warihi Hetaraka, it has rapidly become the venue of choice for a myriad of other users.
Since opening its next stage, Hihiaua has been enjoyed by thousands of people from diverse walks of life via meetings, wananga, hui, kapa haka, dance and vocational training, awards dinners, ‘Tohunga Talks’ and governmental meetings. Visitors have experienced gallery exhibitions featuring works from some of the nation’s best weavers, painters, printmakers, tā moko artists, jewellery makers and other creatives.
Hihiaua has also hosted festivals like the annual Pasifika Fusion Festival since 2015, the first Rātā Ahurei Tarai Waka Symposium in October 2019 and the Whangārei Sculpture Symposium in March 2020.
Hihiaua joined forces with the Whangārei District Council to welcome the Tuia 250 flotilla of tall ships and waka hourua to the district in a spectacular Haka Powhiri on November 2, 2019.
The next stage of development is already in the pipeline. ‘Stage 2’ will include a unique indoor/outdoor performing arts space, exhibition hall and retail and dining spaces linked by pathways and planting.
The centre will be a dynamic showplace for Māori creativity and support regionally, nationally and internationally significant events, performances and creative practices. Building will begin as soon as funding is secured.
Te Tai Tokerau is a key region for Māori in education and business and the development of the award-winning Hihiaua Cultural Centre is one of its top four economic growth priorities. Hihiaua is positioned to become a key point in the Pacific triangle where activities can take place to help restore the mauri and mana of the entire Pacific region.
Hihiaua Cultural Centre is not only a place of creativity and entrepreneurship but also a hub where a unified community gathers to be inspired, build relationships, identity and hope for a shared future.
Nga mahi toi hei oranga wairua, he oranga tinana mo nga uri whakatupu.