Te Whare Hononga, a place for peace and understanding, opens in Taranaki

Published: 13 April, 2023

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A new whare (house) that creates a space to bring the Taranaki Cathedral community and mana whenua together and establish the Sir Paul Reeves Centre, officially opened with a dawn blessing in Ngāmotu New Plymouth today.

Large group of people in formal clothing sitting in a room with wooden walls and Māori designs on the walls. They are listening to one person who is standing and talking.

Dean of Taranaki Cathedral Jay Ruka addressing the large crowd at the opening of Te Whare Hononga in Taranaki.

Te Whare Hononga, the House that Binds, received a $3 million Government regional development grant as part of a $20 million Taranaki Anglican Trust Board project for the historic site.

The new building includes a visitor experience with animated videos that tells the stories of the enduring impacts of colonial settlement actions. Ngāti te Whiti hapū members, traditional mana whenua of the Cathedral site, were involved in the development of the storytelling including providing character voiceovers.

Dean of the Taranaki Cathedral Jay Ruka (Te Ātiawa and Ngāti Mutunga) says Sir Paul Reeves – former Archbishop and Governor General of New Zealand was a direct descendent of Te Whiti-o-Rongomai III.

Te Whiti-o-Rongomai III, Erueti - Te Ara

“Like Sir Paul, we believe that these stories bring questions, truths and understandings about New Zealand history, colonisation and the Land Wars that are relevant to everyone.

“This is an honest, inclusive retelling of Taranaki Cathedral’s history. We hope to foster understanding and inspire people to work towards peace and reconciliation,” he says.

Dean Ruka says today’s dawn ceremony also incorporates the blessing of a new memorial for the chiefs of Ngāti Hauā, Ngāti Apakura and Ngāti Koura who are buried in the church grounds. More than 120 Ngāti Hauā representatives, including Tumuaki Hone Thompson, will travel from the Waikato to attend the ceremony, having worked with Ngāti te Whiti on a new memorial. A giant 3 metre bronze toki (adze) memorial, created by artist Rangi Kipa (Te Atiawa), the 2021 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate, will be unveiled.

Taranaki Cathedral, Mere Tapu (St Mary’s Church), is New Zealand's oldest stone church, built in 1846. The chiefs were killed by colonial troops in the Taranaki Wars of the 1860s and buried, unmarked and unnamed, in its grounds.

“This memorial is a tangible first step that makes our commitment to reconciliation real and meaningful. Te Ātiawa worked with Ngāti Hauā and with us for two years on this. That had never officially happened before. Honouring these rangatira together is a very significant moment,” he says.

The Government funding for the project was provided through Kānoa, its Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit. Another $2 million of the Taranaki project’s $5 million Provincial Growth Fund grant will help earthquake strengthen the Cathedral.

Kānoa’s General Manager for Regions, Kay Read who attended the dawn blessing says Te Whare Hononga is a striking example of how two communities embarked on a journey to come together to understand each other and lay down another vision for the future, through acknowledging a hurtful past.

“Its design and exterior reflect the weaving of a kete that holds precious taonga, built within a wairua of reconciliation.

“It creates the impression of strands binding together and visibly reflects this whare’s important kaupapa. This is a place to hear and share stories as part of a process of healing and learning that we can all be a part of in Aotearoa New Zealand,” she says.