Tangata Whenua have, since 2008 wanted to create a Maori Arts & Crafts Museum Centre in Foxton.
A weaving exhibition several years ago sparked the unification of Foxton Maori behind Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom.
Spokeswoman Hayley Bell, of Ngati Te Au, said the exhibition of work by kuia Rangimahora Reihana-Mete was such a success that the organisers, Te Awahou Maori Women's Welfare League, began looking for a permanent home to display arts and crafts and tell the stories of Maori in the Foxton area.
Local hapu and kaupapa Maori groups were called together to talk about an arts and crafts museum. In the process they heard of New Zealand Dutch community plans to honour migrants from the Netherlands. Dutch representatives attended a hui, stayed on a marae and the basis of the joint venture was forged.
Hayley said Te Taitoa Maori o Te Awahou (the trust formed to support the museum complex) includes nine Ngati Raukawa Foxton Maori unified behind Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom ki te Tonga hapu: Ngati Takihiku, Ngati Ngarongo, Ngati Hinemata, Ngati Whakatere, Ngati Rakau, Ngati Turanga, Ngati Te Au, Ngati Pareraukawa and Ngati Kikopiri. Some of these hapu do not have marae in Foxton, but retain whanau and whenua connections.
But Te Taitoa Maori o Te Awahou is a remarkable piece of weaving in its own right, also drawing in Te Awahou Maori Women's Welfare League, whanau support groups from Foxton Primary School and Manawatu College, Moutoa Maori Wardens, Te Atakura and Te Roopu Whanui Culture and Development Club.
Hayley said the Trust Deed was designed to be as inclusive as possible of Maori collectives in Foxton. She acknowledges the work of Robin Hapi, Chairman of the Electoral College that chose the Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom trustees, in driving this unification. Hayley said Te Taitoa Maori o Te Awahou may, in the future, initiate other projects for Maori in Foxton.
As others have joined the project, particularly Save Our River Trust and the Flax Stripper Museum, we have been able to strengthen our relationships with them.
Our museum will provide the opportunity to share our stories of the river and the district with ourselves and other peoples, and to celebrate our arts and crafts and local artists. We know that the complex will be good for our people and for the wider Foxton community.
Pictured: (Above) Weaving Exhibition at the Levin Memorial Hall; (Below) Mural outside Foxton's Westpac Bank of kuia Rangimahora Reihana-Mete.