Dawn of a new era at the Faculty of Engineering / Te Herenga Mātai Pūkaha

A faculty-led haka and the unveiling of a pou whenua at the dawn blessing of Te Herenga Mātai Pūkaha demonstrates just how far the faculty has come since the 1970s.

The pou whenua and Te Herenga Mātai Pūkaha.
The pou whenua and Te Herenga Mātai Pūkaha.

The haka – Me Hoki Whakamuri Kia Anga Whakamua – was incorporated into the opening of the new $280 million building, attended by representatives from Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, staff and students of the Faculty of Engineering, members of the University, and key partners of the faculty.

It was developed by staff in partnership with Tāpeta Wehi, co-founder of Te Wehi Haka and leader of the Haka Experience, who said it had been a privilege to share this beautiful taonga (treasure) with the Faculty of Engineering.

Also attending the dawn blessing was Hone Harawira, whose engagement with students performing a completely different sort of mock ‘haka’ 40 years ago had defined the faculty for decades.

“There was an apology [for that incident and the previous approach to the haka] some years ago, but this new haka topped that,” he said.

Unveiling the pou at the dawn ceremony.
Unveiling the pou at the dawn ceremony.

Dean of Engineering, Professor Nic Smith, says the opening of the new building was a perfect opportunity to acknowledge and redress the previous tumultuous relationship with the haka.

“We wanted to develop a haka that was meaningful to our staff and students – something we could all be proud of. We have a diverse group of people in our faculty from all corners of the world and we wanted to acknowledge this through our haka. This is about us standing together, acknowledging our past and simultaneously embracing the challenges of the future.

“Working with Tāpeta was an incredible experience, strengthening our team, and broadening our understanding of mātauranga and the beauty of te reo Māori. Not only were we able to stand and perform the haka, we have a deep sense of connection to the words, actions and meaning.”

Catherine Dunphy, Kaiārahi for the faculty, said the historic incident reflected what was happening in society at the time while today’s performance represented the faculty’s aspirations for the future.

The only way to move ahead is to understand and acknowledge our history. We are still transforming who we are as a faculty and the experience from the 1970s will continue to guide us to make the right decisions for the future.

Catherine Dunphy Kaiārahi, Faculty of Engineering

It doesn’t stop with today’s performance, she noted, but formed part of a wider commitment to welcome and embrace Māori and Pacific people who wish to study, work or partner with the faculty.

“We’re committed to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and providing a community and environment that embraces equity and diversity as well as stimulating creativity, encouraging excellence and ensuring our students succeed. The University of Auckland has a unique place in Aotearoa and the Pacific and we want to reflect this through what and how we teach.”

The opening of the new building also saw the unveiling of the pou whenua carved by master craftsman Delani Brown, highlighting the importance of understanding and acknowledging the whenua and mana whenua, and celebrating the diversity of the people, experience and knowledge within the faculty.

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Lisa Finucane
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