Topic: Rautahi Marae And Community Centre

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Exhibitions featuring Rautahi Marae and the Community Centre were curated at the Sir James Fletcher Kawerau Museum September 2009-August 2011. There was also an exhibition on the opening of the Community Centre Saturday 19 October 1963 which was on display August 2015- November 2016 and again on display September 2018.

When work started on the Tasman mill in September 1953 many Maori and European workers came to work and live in the new town. During this early period a Haka club was set up to draw the Maori people together and to give them support in an environment foreign to many of them. Particular cultural needs became apparent following the first Maori death in the town, which had no Marae, and this gave rise to the formation of the Kawerau Maori Community Committee in 1960.

The Maori community saw the need for a place which they could call their own and follow their culture. They decided a community centre was needed. In 1962 enough funds were raised for the building of a hall to commence and it was completed in 1963. The choice of a name was important for such a building; more so because it was to embrace all peoples. It was decided to call the centre "Rautahi" - "many into one". The hall was officially opened on Saturday 19 October 1963 by the Hon. J. R. Hanan, Minister of Maori Affairs.

Many visitors and the community of Kawerau gathered to celebrate this special day. Tributes were paid by the speakers to the many people who had spent long and tedious hours of work and preparation in completing the building and preparing for the official opening. They included members of the Delamere family, Maori Womens Welfare League, Kawerau United Football Club, Maori Youth Club and the Awhina Social Club. One of the prime organisers of the centre, Koro Roberts, was unfortunately admitted to hospital the day prior to the celebrations and was unable to be present. The official programme for the opening was: 


8.30am Breakfast 

10am Speeches

11am Official Party arrives

In the evening there was a discussion on Maori Affairs, a dance and concert.

But the community centre was still missing a meeting house. Fundraising was to take many years, and it was not until the early 1980‘s that the Committee neared its target. One of the major fundraising events was a debutante ball which was held in the Town Hall in August 1971.

It took a long time but finally with voluntary labour the meeting house was built using hollow-stone blocks and a carved wooden interior. The Meeting House was named Te Aotahi after a Tohunga and son of the chief Tuwhareatoa. On Saturday 9th March 1985 the Rautahi Marae meeting house was officially opened before a large gathering including people from many parts of New Zealand.Rautahi Community Centre 1963

Mr John Kameta who was chairman of the Rautahi Maori Committee gave the following message:

Kia Ora Koutou Katoa

Wherever there is a Maori living in a community a Marae is a necessity. For without a Marae, much of the Maori is missing. For a Marae is a place to pray to God, a place to meet and be happy, an place to weep for our dead, a place to house our guests, a place to rise tall in oratory, a place to listen to our elders and that we may learn our history and then know that richness of life and that proud heritage which is truly ours.

Ruatahi means "Many into One". To give each person his turangawaewae (footing) and the feeling of being at home, a representative was elected from the tribal areas of Tai Tokerau, Waitako, Maniapoto, Arawa, Tuwharetoa, Ngatiawa, Tuhoe, Whakatohea, Horouta and Kahangunu to be trustees for the Rautahi Marae.

Rautahi is for all Maori, for our cousins from the Pacific Islands and Europeans, Rautahi greets you one and all, Naumai, Naumai (Welcome, Welcome). Tena Koutou! Tena Koutou! Tena Koutou!

Related links:

Te Ao Hou article - The official opening of the Rautahi Community Centre (external link)



Rautahi Marae And Community Centre