Reflecting the rohe: Ra-paki Marae

Long ago, Ngāi Tahu Chief Te Rakiwhakaputa claimed the settlement at Rāpaki for himself by laying his rāpaki (waist mat) on the shores of the bay. Since then the small Ngāi Tahu settlement, also known as Rāpaki o Te Rakiwhakaputa, has been home to his descendants, ngā uri o Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke.

Since early 2000 Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke planned for the construction of a new Whare Tipuna at Rāpaki Marae and in November 2010 ‘Wheke’ was unveiled.

Nik Kneale, Boffa Miskell design leader and landscape architect, worked collaboratively with the Rāpaki Marae Development Board and project team to develop a concept plan based on understanding the unique natural and cultural history of the rohe (area) and its people. He worked closely with renowned master weaver Aunty Doe Parata, of Rāpaki, to develop the concept of the atea space being a rāpaki laid on the ground.

“All who enter the marae must be welcomed onto, and pass over the atea, so we designed it to maximise the usable surface on the sloping site while also preserving visual connections to the harbour and the ancestral mountain, Te Poho o Tamatea,” Nik explains. “From his place at the apex of the whare, Te Rakiwhakaputa looks down over his atea, his rāpaki, and all who enter his marae.”

Local and recycled materials were used wherever possible to reflect Rāpaki’s genus loci and to save costs. For instance, the foundation stones from the original whare, Te Wheke, were re-used to form protective garden edges and to reference the memory of the former whare tipuna. Locally sourced plants were used in the gardens around the area to frame important views, and, further down the site, to provide ingredients for kai and rongoā as well as a future source of harakeke for weaving.

Many in the community found refuge at the whare in the months that followed the 2011 Canterbury earthquake - proof of its success as a community facility and place of special meaning to the people of Rāpaki.

The whare’s success has special significance, too, for Boffa Miskell’s cultural advisor and planner, Amos Kamo, who is a member of Ngāti Wheke and has been involved since the early stages of the marae development project.

Meanwhile, Nik is currently working with Te Ngāi Tūāhuriri on their new marae development at Tuahiwi north of Christchurch.

For further information please contact Nik Kneale

1 November 2012