Official Opening of te tuhi - the mark

  • Judith Tizard
Arts, Culture and Heritage

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa

Thank you, Sir Barry, for your words of welcome, and to the Ngai Tai iwi, the children of Owairoa Marae and the arts & cultural community of Pakuranga, thank you for the opportunity to be here.

As Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, it is exciting to be taking part in an event that opens doors for all local people to participate in and enjoy the arts and culture.
And as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland Issues, I'm pleased to be here to celebrate the community spirit, enthusiasm and drive behind te tuhi - the mark.

Events like this underline just how much passion for the arts we can find outside the main centres. They demonstrate how individuals, organisations and communities can contribute to the cultural life of the nation as a whole.

The Government has made a commitment to ensuring that cultural activities are accessible to all New Zealanders to enjoy. We see it as important for a number of reasons. There are intrinsic benefits and fundamental human satisfaction to be gained from exposure to and engagement with culture. Culture directly enhances our quality of life.

Our art makes a big contribution to our national identity. In a country made richer by its bicultural basis, and by the different cultural backgrounds of all our people, art helps us define who we are as individuals and as part of the New Zealand community. Our art marks us out - it says of us that we are a distinctive and special nation.

The arts, too, can serve as critic and conscience of society, they can stimulate insight into our past, tell us why we are as we are now and what we might be - in other words, how we can place our mark on the land!

And cultural activities also help generate economic benefits. Worldwide, the creative, cultural and heritage sectors are among the key growth industries for the twenty-first century. They have yet to reach their full potential to be greater employers of people doing the jobs they love, and to boost our GDP and export earnings.

But central government cannot do it all. We believe that local authorities also have a part to play in encouraging community arts. Local centres built with the sheer hard work and commitment of local people make a very significant contribution to the cultural life of the nation. They are often innovative places that provide cultural venues where communities can explore ideas and issues. Their direct connections with their communities lend them a vitality and freshness. And their influence often extends beyond their immediate urban centre to be a cultural focus for a wider community: they can engage creatively with national and international initiatives.

Certainly this is evident in the way that the Manukau City Council has taken up and responded to this cause. The community owes a debt of gratitude to the farsightedness of Councillors who have provided the funding, gifted the buildings and made a commitment to support the operational costs of the new Trust.

As a Government, we like to emphasise the need for strategic partnerships in the arts. Often the best way of achieving cultural goals is through strategic partnerships with other organisations. So it has been a real pleasure to see the dedication of the people of the Manukau City Council, of Ngai Tai Iwi, of the Fisher Gallery, of the Pakuranga Arts Society and of the Pakuranga Arts and Cultural Trust, to working together to plan, fund and carry out this project successfully. What we see today shows how much you all value your community. And the hard work has been complemented by the generous funding of other financial supporters - The ASB Trust, The Lottery Grants Board and the Sir John Logan Campbell Residuary Estate.

That the spirit of partnership is so strong is, I am sure due to the abundant community spirit of Ngai Tai Iwi. The iwi have given permission to use the name te tuhi, have 'walked alongside' the staff throughout the process of developing this centre, and now have gifted to all of you who live here the special carving - te tuhi - which will be unveiled this afternoon. I think it will become a symbol of a place in which a community gathers. As the Ngai Tai proverb says, "Ma te tuhi rapa a Manawatere ka kitea" - "By the mark of Manawatere it will be found."

From the Fisher Gallery and from the generosity of the founding patron, Iris Fisher, te tuhi - the mark will have inherited a strong tradition of engagement with the community through its education programme. It is a tradition of providing a platform for vibrant local and national art in a range of media. It is art that recognises and celebrates place - and recognises that engagement with issues important to the community must not be tucked away, but allowed to be an integral part of how we express ourselves in our society.

I expect it will become a place that warmly welcomes all who live in and visit Pakuranga. I expect it will draw people together in their mutual interests and that it will disseminate knowledge. Congratulations to all those who have made te tuhi - the mark possible. You must feel very proud that your years of planning and fund-raising have built a wonderful asset not just to the community but to the whole region.

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa. Kia ora.