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Te Kahu o Waipuna: Blenheim's new library and gallery name revealed

Article courtesy of Stuff.

Written by Maia Hart, Local Democracy Reporter, Jun 30 2023

Te Kahu o Waipuna, the official name of Blenheim’s library and art gallery is unveiled on Friday. Photo Anthony Phelps/STUFF

A river next to Blenheim’s new library and art gallery is the “geographical feature” that “most influenced” the building’s new name.

Te Kahu o Waipuna or the protective cloak of Waipuna – is the name gifted by mana whenua and unveiled at the official opening of the $20m building on Friday.

Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni spoke at the ceremony, and took the opportunity to announce a $580,000 grant from the Regional Strategic Partnership fund for Blenheim’s new technology and innovation hub, expected to open later this year.

The library and art gallery name, shared by Dr Peter Meihana, of Ngāti Kuia, Rangitāne, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō and Ngāi Tahu, was decided on by an iwi working group.

Meihana told a crowd of about 100 people the naming of places needed “serious consideration”, and Te Kahu o Waipuna could be understood as part of a wider movement of “indigenising public spaces”.

“We should be reassured that we are not alone on this journey, although we as a community have some way to go,” Meihana said.

He thought the new building would “embrace the community in all its diversity”.

About 100 people attend the opening on Friday. Photo Anthony Phelps/STUFF

The adjacent Taylor River – important to both Māori and Pākehā – was fed by springs rising in the west and the north of Blenheim, and formed part of the water system Ngā wai-rau o Ruatere.

“Spring water, or waipuna, holds a special place in Te Reo Māori.”

Waipuna was also the name of the mother of Rangitāne, the eponymous ancestor whose descendants became the modern-day iwi.

Marlborough mayor Nadine Taylor said she was “very aware” she was “third in the line of mayors” that had been involved in the project.

Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni, left, and Rangitāne ki Wairau member Paora Mackie share a breath. Photo Anthony Phelps/STUFF

She told mana whenua the name was a “wonderful gift”.

“Te Kahu o Waipuna, the protective cloak of Waipuna. You have gifted us a name rich in meaning,” Taylor said.

“Waipuna being the springs, referencing those puna (springs) that we know rise to the north-west of our town.

“Ngā wai-rau o Ruatere, those rivers that feed the river that flows past this building, and fill our aquifers and provide the lifeblood for our people and our province.”

Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni and MP for Te Tai Tonga Rino Tirikatene at the opening on Friday. Photo Anthony Phelps/STUFF

Taylor went on to thank the Government for their contribution to helping set up the library and art gallery.

The Government in 2020 announced it would cover $11 million of the project's $20m bill. The project, constructed by Robinson Construction, was one of 150 to be approved as part of the Government's 'shovel ready' initiative, designed to boost the economy as the country recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Taylor later said they knew people were “hungry for knowledge”.

The Government has funded $11m towards Te Kahu o Waipuna. Photo Anthony Phelps/STUFF

She said since the new space opened with a soft launch in May, the number of visitors had doubled compared to the previous library.

“I think that’s a healthy sign for our future,” she said.

In her speech, Sepuloni joking thanked a man who spent much of the ceremony up a ladder, holding a wayward cover over the sign until the grand unveiling.

“I was focused on the event, but I was also watching you very nervously,” she said.

She said the building was the “lifeline of arts and culture”.

“Because the art gallery meets the high standards ... Blenheim can now host exhibitions of rare and valuable works, previously unable to be visible in Marlborough.”

She thanked the many people involved in the project, including Mayor Taylor, mana whenua, Marlborough Art Gallery trustee Rick Osborne, Marlborough Art Gallery director Cressida Bishop and Marlborough libraries manager Glenn Webster, among others.


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