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PM: Opening of Kopinga Marae, Chatham Islands

Opening of Kopinga Marae, Chatham Islands

This is an event of national significance for the people of Rekohu and of New Zealand, as this is the first marae ever to be built in recognition of the Moriori people of Rekohu.


To distinguished guests, tçnâ kotou, tçnâ kotou, tçnâ kotou.

To Moriori, tchakat henu, people of Rekohu - thank you for your kind welcome.

Thank you for inviting me here today to share this very special occasion - the opening of Kopinga Marae.

This is an event of national significance for the people of Rekohu and of New Zealand, as this is the first marae ever to be built in recognition of the Moriori people of Rekohu.

Thus it is fitting that it is being opened in the presence of so many people, both from Rekohu and from mainland New Zealand - and it is especially fitting to see the huge response from Moriori descendents.

The building of Kopinga Marae is an important step in affirming the identity of Moriori. This will be a central base, here on Rekohu, to which your people can come, from wherever they live, feel at home, and debate issues important to you as a people.

Today is also a celebration of Moriori people and a way of life which developed over centuries in this beautiful but rugged and isolated place.

One aspect of the Moriori culture which stands out was the practice of peace. The Moriori ancestor, Nunuku, banned warfare, decreeing that disputes could be settled by duel but must end immediately when blood was drawn.

We acknowledge today the Moriori ancestors, particularly those who lived in 1835 and whose names are carved upon the ancestral pou that sits inside the whare, and we acknowledge the legacy of peace for which they sacrificed so much.

This whare is a special place. The design symbolises the hopo, the albatross with out-spread wings, a sacred bird of the Moriori.

The marae's name - Kopinga - tells us of the ancient gathering place of Moriori amongst the kopi grove trees on the Island.

We can see that the design of the whare has been inspired by the work of the Moriori ancestors. It captures the essence of what is known of the Moriori people, their carvings, their culture, and their connection to this special environment and its flora and fauna.

The building of this marae has been a long and arduous journey of fundraising, seeking sponsorship, donations of money and the ongoing support from local families, and families in New Zealand and further afield.

Raising funds to build this beautiful house is a major achievement, and I congratulate all those responsible and thank those who have helped.

There have been many people involved in this project, from those who conceptualised the project, to the designers, construction workers, project mangers, and all those who contributed to the funding. I also acknowledge those who managed and led the project - the Hokotehi Moriori Trust, chaired by Alfred Preece and Maui Solomon, the Chief Executive Officer Leo Watson, and the tohunga who provided spiritual guidance, Mana Cracknell.

I understand that the wider community of Rekohu has also played a role in the establishment of this marae. It is fitting then that the facilities here will provide a resource for the whole community.

The marae will be used for holding community events and is already identified as a Civil Emergency Centre.

I commend the whole community of the Chatham Islands for embracing this celebration.

Thank you all. Me rongo.


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