Sir Apirana Ngata's legacy to continue with funding - Te Puia Gen Manager

By Jessica Tyson

The general manager of Te Puia, Eraia Kiel, says he and his staff are extremely grateful to receive $7.6mil in funding to safeguard the future of toi Māori and continue the legacy of Sir Apirana Ngata.

Yesterday the Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta announced the funding, as part of the Government’s Rebuilding Together Budget following the impact of COVD-19.

Kiel says the institute has worked with the Government for years but had never reached out to the government for any financial support in the past 50 years.

“We’ve had a strong relationship with them and yesterday they showed ā kanohi nei and recognised that relationship, he says.

"Although we’ve worked together they’ve fronted up and...recognised and have an obligation to support this legacy that’s a cornerstone foundation of our nation.”

Kiel, of Te Arawa, Tainui and Rongomaiwahine, says challenges are nothing new to Te Puia.

“Through the 53 years we’ve had many piki me ngā heke, trials and tribulations, he says.

“This is just another one and our people are very resilient. They’re very adaptable to change like the whakairo, like the raranga and I’m really proud of our people.”

Kiel says he’s looking forward to getting their students back.

“They’re the life link of our mahi. That’s why we do what we do.”

He’s also looking forward to sharing more of the Māori culture to visitors and spending more time with them.

“In the past, they might pop in and they might only be with us for half an hour to 45 minutes, so we are really going to be encouraging people to stay longer and to look at the many wonderful things we have to offer.”

He says sites on offer include the geothermal valley, the Kiwi house, the marae, the schools, gallery and their beautiful restaurant.

“And just sitting and talking with the people. We’re going to be sharing a lot more.”

Mahuta says the institute’s continuity is vital, culturally and economically and the Government’s investment will bring relief in response to travel restrictions after COVID-19.

“The support will safeguard the future of toi Māori and ensure that our future carvers, weavers, waka exponents, and arts and crafts champions have a place to hone and perfect Māori arts for generations to come.”

Prior to COVID-19, around two out of every 10 visitors to Rotorua visited Te Puia.

“Further, there is no doubt the impacts of COVID-19 will have on the tourism and hospitality sector,” she says.

As a major local attraction, numerous other businesses and individuals are likely to benefit from Te Puia over the medium term, including accommodation and retail services, she says.

“I also have no doubt iwi partners will be working diligently to ensure that they continue to carry the business through this uncertain time.”

Te Puia is the only institute of its kind in the world. It was formed in 1926 and operates as a tourism venture with specialised education schools dedicated to Māori arts and crafts.