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Fale a New Zealand first

Fale a New Zealand first

The completion of the only Samoan fale tele in New Zealand to be built using traditional techniques and materials has been a Pacific-wide effort.

The circular meeting house at Unitec's Mt Albert campus was completed this month, with people and materials from the entire Pacific region contributing to its construction - from the Samoan master builder and Tongan stonemason who handcrafted it, to the New Zealand timber and kilometres of Fijian coconut fibre rope used to build it.

Unitec architecture lecturer Jeremy Treadwell has been involved in the fale project since it started in 2001 and said it had been made possible by the goodwill of Unitec staff and the community. "It was built on a very small budget with contributions from Unitec, other architects, community groups and the Auckland City Council."

Mr Treadwell said that using traditional techniques in its construction had made it a valuable learning experience for the Unitec staff involved. "We teach mainly Western-oriented architecture here in Southern Polynesia. Even though Auckland is the largest Polynesian city in the world, little is known about the complexities of the region's traditional architecture."

Architecture students also helped to construct the fale under the watchful eye of the principal builder, Kaietano Smith, a tufuga fai fale or traditional Samoan master builder.

Jeremy said the project had helped to broaden the Unitec students' knowledge. "As well as helping to build the fale, they attended an accompanying lecture course. The practical construction work informed their classroom learning."

He said he hoped the fale would be a resource for the entire community. "It could be used as a meeting house, performance space or small teaching space. A number of local primary schools and some Polynesian groups have already expressed an interest in using the fale."

The completion of the fale is being celebrated at a ceremony on Saturday, with representatives from Auckland's Pacific communities and Associate Minister of Pacific Island Affairs Taito Phillip Field attending.

What: Fale opening Where: Entry One, Unitec New Zealand, Carrington Rd, Mt Albert When: 11.30am, Saturday 3 April

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