Oh look – $12.5m spent on a boat shed, but one of the boats is too bloody big

The farce of Welllington’s Maori boat shed gets more hilarious by the day.

It’s the shed Wellington ratepayers overwhelmingly did not want to fund.

The council’s spending – remember? – disregarded a poll that showed 84 per cent of respondents opposed the expenditure and said it was “outrageous.”

Oh, and it’s the shed that has cost taxpayers millions of dollars, too.

And it’s the shed that was opened with lots of Maori ceremony, but with ceremonial waka shipped in from somewhere elsewhere in the country because one bunch of Wellington Maori wouldn’t surrender the local ceremonial waka to another bunch of Wellington Maori on the other side of the harbour.

As if that wasn’t farce enough, it’s a shed designed to house two waka but (as we learn today) it is not big enough to house one of them.

The long-running saga of Wellington’s wharewaka has taken a new twist, with the city council conceding that the $12.5 million building is too small for one of the waka expected to be housed in it.

The admission comes as defiant Waiwhetu Maori ignore a council deadline to return Wellington’s ceremonial waka, Te Raukura.

They also say plans to house the waka alongside “1800 drunks” in the party central zone during the Rugby World Cup are culturally insensitive and insulting to Maori principles.

“We all know what happens at party time,” runanga executive officer Teri Puketapu said. “We don’t want our waka in the middle of 1800 drunks.”

It is highly commendable, of course, to protect the waka from the ugly spectacle of rugby drunks.

Alf imagines it is a highly sensitive thing – ha!

But what about the size of the boat shed?

Wellington City Council admits Te Raukura’s Hutt Valley sister waka, Te Aniwaniwa, will not fit in the wharewaka, but says it was never meant to.

Spokesman Richard MacLean said that, although the building was designed to house two waka, Te Aniwaniwa, the longer canoe, was not one of them.

“It appears whoever designed the thing, they obviously decided that, `No, it’s not going to house the Hutt one’. It sounds like another dispute.”

Dispute, indeed, because –

Mr Puketapu said the wharewaka was meant to house Te Raukura and Te Aniwaniwa when used together in Wellington.

A council spokesman reckons the claims about the waka’s length and about drunken World Cup fans “would seem to be an attempt to divert attention from the real issue – that is, that the waka Te Raukura belongs to Wellington City Council and the people of Wellington, and it will fit perfectly in the new wharewaka when it’s finally returned”.

The council had demanded its return by yesterday, warning that the Hutt runanga could face legal action if it did not comply.

But the runanga is refusing to back down until the council agrees to set up a trust with runanga representation to oversee the waka’s continuing care and use.

Bearing in mind it is such a sensitive thing, this sounds thoroughly reasonable.

But the waka’s sensitivities seem to be a pretext.

This became evident when Puketapu was asked if the runanga would meet the deadline and hand the waka back.

He said it would not.

The runanga was “formulating a document” to present to the council. A meeting this month with Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and Mr Poole had failed to find a way forward.

“They didn’t offer any positive response. They kept saying: `Well, we own it’. But in our view it’s a three-way ownership. They paid in money, we paid in money and the taxpayers of New Zealand paid in money.

“We don’t really mind it going into Wellington to the new building, but we need to make sure we don’t lose our cultural control.”

Oh, so that’s it. Cultural control.

But who should be the cultural controllers?

Let the record show that Wharewaka Trust boss Sir Ngatata Love is saying he he and other iwi leaders have agreed not to comment publicly till the matter is resolved.

Pity. Obviously he won’t be answering our question about cultural control.

But let’s not be sidelined by the row over who should own the bloody waka or have cultural control or whatever.

The question for today is: what are we to make of all that money being spent on a boat that can’t accommodate the two ceremonial waka?

Keeping Stock was on the case early today to opine –

Oh dear, oh dear! Why would you go to the expense of building a wharewaka which was too nohinohi to house the largest, most impressive waka in the area? Isn’t local government wonderful?

Well, yes.

But central government is wonderful too, because it chipped in $8 million or so of our money for what turns out to be a somewhat withered wharewaka.

Let there be no mistake about the intention.

At wellingtonnz.com we are told Te Wharewaka o Poneke was opened on 6 February 2011 and will play host to the visitors expected in Wellington for the Rugby World Cup located in the heart of the fan zone.

The Wharewaka will showcase the rich heritage of Maori art and culture and house the city’s two ceremonial waka.

It also says the shed was constructed “in traditional fashion”, which Alf finds fascinating because he was not aware the pre-European Maori had used the materials he sees have been used in the boat shed.

Oh, and let’s acknowledge that Puketapu probably has a point when he worries about his (or the people’s) waka being exposed to drunken behaviour.

On March 5 last year Scoop reported that for six weeks this year the boat shed and Maori cultural showcase would be downgraded to become a place for parties and the sale of souvenirs.

“More than 1200 partygoers will be able to pack into the wharewaka,” reports the Dominion Post on the city council’s decision this week to make this new building the centre of a Rugby Village for the Rugby World Cup.

It seems that the city’s two ceremonial waka may have to be moved out of their new home, to make way for partygoers.

With 50,000 visitors expected in Wellington for the Rugby World Cup, the Te Wharewaka O Poneke Trust might have been expected to welcome the opportunity to demonstrate the rich heritage of waka culture. Instead, its new wharewaka will be used to demonstrate the Kiwi culture of rugby and beer. (But not New Zealand beer – Heineken is the official sponsor). All but one of Wellington’s city councilors voted for commercial use of the wharewaka. The only opposition came from Councilor Iona Pannett, who felt the plans were over the top.

Scoop pointed out that the council had already spent $800,000 to help pay for the building at that stage, disregarding the aforementioned poll where 84 per cent of respondents opposed the expenditure. Now a further $150,000 would be spent to rent it as “the base for the World Rugby Village” which will be part of a “festival of activity” during the rugby event.

The wharewaka will be given official RWC branding. It’ll sell Rugby World Cup t-shirts and souvenirs – but only the ones which are officially licensed.

The city council is enthusiastic about such commercial activity. Its vision for the wharewaka is as a place for event sponsor promotions and giveaways, areas for rugby merchandising, capacity for Rugby World Cup theming and branding … meet-the-player sessions and autograph sessions, media promotions, recruitment and training of staff, and fund-raising.

What a comedown from the original vision for the building, as stated by Sir Ngatata Love three years ago: ““The purpose of the development is to bring waka culture to life around Wellington’s harbour and beyond … for events that celebrate waka and their use, together with local Maori history.”

But waka culture is being pushed aside, in favour of sponsored sport.

Councilors (except for Cr Pannett and Cr Pepperell) also voted to spend $350,000 on a sculpture of a rugby ball, to be erected near the wharewaka.

And even this doesn’t satisfy the extravagant dreams. They’re hoping that the eight-foot inflatable rugby ball (the one that was taken to Paris, London and Tokyo) will be on the waterfront as well.

A budget for its cost hasn’t yet been added to the list of World Cup spending (which includes $500,000 to rebuild the Courtenay Place public lavatories so tourists won’t be offended by the current ones, which the council feels are looking “tired”).

But whatever it costs to have a party for rugby fans next year, it seems our councilors will agree that we should pay for it.

Alf likes to think the rugby fans will have a good time.

He is not so sure the public generally should have to pick up the tab.

As for the ceremonial waka, actually, he doesn’t give a toss about whether it is kept in Lower Hutt or handed over to the Wellington mob.

He is outraged that a huge shed has been built for two canoes, one of which won’t fit.

3 Responses to Oh look – $12.5m spent on a boat shed, but one of the boats is too bloody big

  1. DavidW says:

    The simple answer is to “de-sanctify” the building and turn it into a restaurant or some other commercially active purpose. I presume one could round up a few people on their way home from the clubs of Wellywood to perform a dawn function that lifted the Tapu’s and de-sensitised the poor wee petal of a building.

    PS I don’t go out that much but have seen more pissed Maori than Pakeha in my time.

  2. nasska says:

    I can’t see the problem……just chainsaw a bit off the back of the long one.

    • Alf Grumble says:

      Nasska has the right idea, but Mrs Grumble says she rather admires the carving at the bow and stern and would rather we cut a chunk out of the middle, then glue the canoe together.

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