A Century to Celebrate – The Gisborne Herald


Another chapter in the history of Whakarua Park in Ruatoria will be written today.

Thinking of the Ngati Porou East Coast Rugby Union centenary celebrations this weekend, reporter Jack Malcolm looked at the past, present and future of the union’s legendary home ground, Whakarua Park in Ruatoria.

Another chapter in the history of Whakarua de Ruatoria Park will be written today when it hosts the centenary celebrations of the east coast of Ngati Porou.

The park has served as the home ground for NPEC since its separation from the Poverty Bay Rugby Football Union in 1922.

The 6.35 ha Whakarua Park was created by order of the court of Justice Harold Carr in Ruatoria on October 26, 1928, under the Native Purposes Act.

Sir Apirana Ngata led the construction of Uepohatu Marae in the park with support from Arthur William Kirk, Hone Rire, Hori Kaiwai, Pine Tamahori and Wi Tawaho. Uepōhatu was built as a memorial to the two world wars, in honor of the East Coast soldiers who gave their lives.

Governor General Sir Bernard Freyberg officially opened Uepōhatu on September 13, 1947. Other events during the two days that marked the hall’s completion included a veterans reunion, investiture ceremony, competition for haka, a concert and rugby matches.

The building’s conventional exterior belies its richly carved and tukutuku-paneled interior. The sculptures are made by master craftsmen Pine Taiapa and Rua Kaika. Memorial tablets and tukutuku signs include an honoring Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa Ngārimu, the first Maori soldier to receive the Victoria Cross, up to Willie Apiata in 2007.

This weekend the room will be dedicated to those who lost their lives fighting for their country, said David Goldsmith, chairman of Whakarua Park Trust.

“It’s time to remind ourselves of the sacrifice these people made for us all those years ago.”

He said the condition of the hall had started to deteriorate and the trust had made a significant effort to restore the building to its former glory.

“Those people up there were looking down on us, thinking ‘come on, did we go overseas for nothing?’.”

The consecration will be carried out by the Head of the Anglican Maori Church and Primate and Archbishop of New Zealand, Most Reverend Donald Tamihere.

The bill for the repairs and renovation was over $ 1 million and the trust had to raise funds to cover the costs.

One of the most important tasks in the project was to restore the tukutuku panels, as the men and women in the area had to learn the ancient art, Goldsmith said.

The process requires “the patience of Job”.

Goldsmith said all parking lots and driveways have been closed and a fence has been put up around the perimeter of the park to match the work being done inside. The park now “looks like a picture”.

While the trust has “completely” renovated the building from scratch, their plans for the park are only just beginning, he said.

Looking forward to “future memories”

As one of the four areas designated by the Sports Hub Plan, Ruatoria Park is expected to be the sports center for the east coast.

Goldsmith said the trust plans to upgrade the grandstand, build a youth facility, improve irrigation and lighting, and build an indoor sports facility.

The indoor facility would be an “important development for the east coast” and will include four courts, he said.

“As a young person. . . we grew up in front of the park and when we were growing up every saturday there wasn’t a spare blade of grass.

“I fondly remember this place full of people. . . we want to have it set up and people come in and it’s all there.

Goldsmith, who has served on the trust’s board of directors for the past 50 years, said things are now in place for the installation to become a reality and he is delighted to see future memories being created. on the park.

Whakarua Park has a rich history and many stories, from the resurgence of the 2012 Meads Cup Final, where NPEC came back from a 22-point deficit in the final 20 minutes to win the game, to its first victory in home, 3-0 against Taranaki in 1929.

While the 1929 match was “not exciting and somewhat slow” according to the New Zealand Herald reporter at the scene, it was the start of a proud story for Ngati Porou East Coast.

One of the biggest games played at Whakarua Park was the 2001 semi-final against Nelson Bays. The record crowd of 6,000 sang the famous march song of the 28th Maori Battalion, and Mano Flutey scored his team’s full points, with seven penalties, to win the game 21-12 and send his team to the final against Hawke’s Bay.

Overflow: Spectators were known to climb the grandstand roof in Whakarua Park to watch the game when space was exhausted. Here, Ngati Porou’s East Coast top try scorer Jimmy Kururangi (24 tries) kicks off their 1986 meeting against the Maori of New Zealand, where they lost 54-9.

WIN: Hikurangi supporters perform a haka for their team in 2011, with the Whakarua Park grandstand and Uepōhatu in the background, after winning the local club competition against Uawa. Photo by Paul Rickard

BIG HOPES: A cheeky East Coast supporter changed the scoreboard to read 80-17 in the 2003 clash against Manawatu. The match ended 8-17. Photo by Paul Rickard

ORNATE: The conventional exterior of the Uepōhatu Memorial Hall belies the interior with its beautiful carvings and tukutuku panels recognizing and remembering, among others, Rutu Manutawhiorangi and Te Moananui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu, the only Maoris in awarded the Victoria Cross to Willie Apiata, who received his in 2007 Photo provided


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