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Dawn of a new era at the Faculty of Engineering

A faculty-led haka and the unveiling of a pou whenua at the dawn blessing of Te Herenga Mātai Pūkaha – the Faculty of Engineering – will demonstrate just how far the Faculty has come since the 1970s.

Me Hoki Whakamuri Kia Anga Whakamua was developed by staff from the Faculty in partnership with Tāpeta Wehi, co-founder of Te Wehi Haka and leader of the Haka Experience. He says it has been a privilege and honour to share this beautiful taonga (treasure) with the Faculty of Engineering and shows that as New Zealanders we are slowly but surely moving forward together.

The haka will be performed for the first time at the blessing to officially open the new $280 million building on Friday 6 December 2019.

Dean Nic Smith says that engineering has had a tumultuous relationship with the haka and the opening of the new building was a perfect opportunity to acknowledge this.

“We wanted to develop a haka which is meaningful to our staff and students – something we can all be proud of. We have a diverse group of people in our Faculty from all corners of the world and we wanted to acknowledge this through our haka. This is about us standing together as one, looking back and acknowledging our past and simultaneously embracing the challenge of move boldly into the future.

Working with Tāpeta has been an incredible experience and highlighted the unique power of haka to bring us closer together, broaden our understanding of mātauranga and the beauty of te reo Māori. Not only are we able to stand and perform the haka, we have a deep sense of connection to the words, actions and meaning.”

It’s a unique moment in time says Catherine Dunphy, Kaiārahi for the Faculty. “40 years ago, a confrontation between Māori group He Taua and a group of engineering students rehearsing a mock haka, would define the faculty for decades. The incident reflected what was happening in society at the time and this haka represents our aspirations for the future.”

Dunphy says the only way to move forward is to understand and acknowledge our history. We are still transforming who we are as a Faculty and the experience from the 1970’s will continue to guide us so we make the right decisions for the future.

This new chapter doesn’t end once the haka has been performed on 6 December says Smith – "it’s part of much wider engagement strategy to welcome and embrace Māori and Pacific people who wish to study, work or partner with us.

“We’re committed to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and provide a community and environment that embraces equity and diversity as well as stimulating creativity, encouraging excellence and ensuring our students succeed. The University of Auckland has a unique place in Aotearoa and the Pacific and we want to reflect this through what and how we teach.”

The opening of the new building will also see the unveiling of the pou whenua carved by master craftsman Delani Brown. The pou positions the Faculty well for the future. Not only does it show the importance of understanding and acknowledging the whenua and mana whenua, it also celebrates the diversity of the people, experience and knowledge within the Faculty.

Smith concludes “This is an exciting time for the Faculty, its staff and students. We’re all a bit nervous about performing the haka for the first time. But we’re in it together as one and I’m confident we will rise to the challenge.”

The dawn blessing and official opening takes place on Friday 6 December at 5.15am at 5 Grafton Street, University of Auckland.

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