Te ohonga ake i te moemoea, ko te puāwaitanga o ngā whakaaro

Dreams become reality when we take action.

This year the navy marae, Te Taua Moana, celebrates 20 years of welcoming and embracing its warriors of the sea and visitors to the Navy. Navy Today explores the work and history leading up to its opening on April 15, 2000.

It’s one of the first things Navy recruits encounter after “signing on the line” during their attestation into Navy service. The sailors and officers head over to the foreshore of Ngau Te Ringaringa Bay (Ngataringa) and assemble, as manuhiri, at Te Waharoa, Tangaroa, the gateway in front of the wharenui, Te Whetu Moana. After their pōwhiri, the trainees can consider Te Taua Moana their marae.

The powhiri at Te Taua Moana is also an inherent part of welcoming visitors to the Royal New Zealand Navy. Dignitaries, VIPs, Heads of State and service chiefs from across the world have passed through Te Waharoa and met Te Wero Pōwhiri, the challenge.

But the initial focus and purpose of the Navy marae was Te Iwi Hēramana, its sailors. Robyn Tauroa, the first woman to speak at the marae, was the Rūnanga o Te Iwi Hēramana Secretary at the time, later Marae Assistant Manager. She tells the story about the time before the marae, of how young Māori, accustomed to both discipline and communal living, would arrive to the Navy from all over New Zealand — ngā hau e whā.

“Our 15–19-year-old Ngāti minds were shaped by Killicks and Gunnery Instructors (GIs), and we quickly and happily integrated, seizing the opportunity to get out and see the world.”

Following World War 2, and into the sixties, aspects of tikanga were practised, albeit discretely. “Whānaungatanga inherently guided our behaviour towards one another, and tuakana-teina relationships of a tribal nature were established during training. Reverend Māori Marsden, as the first Māori chaplain in the Royal New Zealand Navy, provided karakia and also guided unuhia ceremonies to prepare Māori for battle. Veterans of that era viewed the wairuatanga of those occasions as being an inevitable pre-emption for a navy marae.

“Importantly, tikanga that surrounded the universal journey of death were respected, although in a restrictive manner. Our forebears would gather in funeral parlours to farewell fellow matelots, and when the bereaved family arrived, they were all guided back to their hometown marae, where the deceased would lie in state.”

In the seventies, tupāpaku lay in lounges, carports and garages, with tents erected outside for wharekai. “Often this was only for a night, as buses were organised and filled with sailors to accompany shipmates on their final return to whānau. It was for these occasions that sailors yearned for a marae where they could gather to farewell the dead, share stories with whānaupani of how their shipmate had lived, while collectively grieving their passing.

“By the eighties, Iwi Hēramana Hui were being held, bringing together ships, and invited Kapa Haka, to perform before whānau and friends. These celebrations were held at naval sports grounds and in gymnasiums, in lieu of the future marae.”

The eighties were a turbulent time for race relations in New Zealand, with Māori opinion divided both on Treaty issues and Waitangi Day events. “With mainstream Māori protesting against a dishonoured Treaty, sailors were being confronted by their own whānau regarding their loyalties. Such concerns led to a Fleet Hui in 1984 for Māori sailors to discuss kaupapa Māori issues within the Navy, and again, the dream of a navy marae was raised as a place of solace and comfort.”

The times also coincided with the planning for new Basic Common Training facilities at Ngataringa. “Lieutenant Commander Karl Hutton, a newly-recruited Māori officer who had been assigned the project, decided he could make a difference. After discussions over various sites with Navy kaumatua and other senior Māori, he designated the current site in an initial Concept Plan that was presented to command.”

It was approved, but it would take another 12 years before fruition. In the meantime, Iwi Hēramana established its own Rūnanga; and spurred by external influences, the Navy established its first Bi-Cultural Committee, whose founding members included Rear Admiral Jack Welch, Chief of Naval Staff.

In the mid-nineties, two buildings were placed on the site chosen by LTCDR Hutton, to become the Wharanui — Te Whetu Moana and the Wharekai — Hinemoana, of Te Taua Moana marae. They traditionally face east, to welcome the sunrise and look out to the sacred land marks of the area.

On 15 April, 2000, the late Māori Queen Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikāhu, opened the marae. Navy kaumātua Kairo McLean opened his whaikorero with this whakatauki — Te ohonga ake i te moemoea, ko te puāwaitanga o ngā whakaaro — Dreams become reality when we take action. The proverb acknowledged both the dreams of Māori sailors over the previous 40 years, and the actions taken by successive generations to fulfil those dreams.

Hui with local and surrounding iwi had been held to advise intentions, discuss plans, and invite representatives to take part in the traditional dawn ceremony. At the formal naval ceremony held later that day, one group raised concerns about what they perceived was a lack of consultation, particularly around choice to honour the marae as nga hau e whā. However, the kaupapa was strengthened by this, as sailors, officers and their extended whānau responded by standing in unity and singing in worship, maintaining the overall integrity of the day. In the speeches that followed, the significance of the matter was not lost, affording mana to the marae and its people.

The COVID-19 lockdown over April has meant a ‘21st’ celebration is contemplated for 2021.