Heritage New Zealand has restored a Melanesian Mission building which was once the central hub for local Aucklanders in the 1860s. Local iwi, Ngāti Whātua and Ngāti Pāoa were also present at the event.
This landmark stone building has given local Māori a close relationship with the Melanesian culture.
Ngāti Whātua spokesperson Naida Glavish says, “It's a day of reflection. It's recognising those who were here and to also acknowledge our ancestors who supported the Melanesian families that were here.”
Anglican Bishop George Takeli says, “It's a deep friendship actually. I mentioned it in my speech that this is the turangawaewae, it's something that captures the whole of our life and faith, and our imaginations.”
Cared for by Heritage New Zealand, the Melanesian Mission building has been closed for a year and a half while strengthening and restoration work on this heritage icon has been carried out.
Māori Heritage Deputy Chief Executive Te Kenehi Teira says, “Heritage New Zealand were focussed on recognising the historic significance of this place and what we did differently was, establishing a restaurant so that people can come and enjoy the food and history of the area.”
The Melanesian Mission was built on Māori land. This was also the site of the Kohimarama Conference in 1860 with Governor Thomas Browne and local iwi.
Glavish says, “The original name to this place was Kohimaramara, but then they changed to Kohimarama. However, that name was taken up to the hill at the back and this place was then called Mission Bay. That was the decision made by the local council.”
The Mission was established here to provide young Melanesian men with a Christian education.