Interestingly, the decision was made during construction to change the Committee Boardroom from an executive room to a ‘whare whakairo’, utilising wherever possible authentic traditional materials and design. The result was a project that involved the local hapu in a way that hadn’t previously been envisaged.
The totara timber was ‘saved’ from the native timber cutting at Waitangirua. The timber was taken to the NZ Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua, to be carved under the supervision of the late John Taiapa, Master Carver, while Carver Ngata Ruru carved panels in Gisborne and installed the carvings into the boardroom and in the office foyer.
The late Jack Kingi, Master Artist, was engaged to complete all the kowhaiwhai design work, oiling and painting of the carved panels.
Twelve women from the district, under the supervision of Peggy Kaua and the late John Taiapa gathered kiekie from the Waioeka Forest, and pingao from Hokio Beach (Levin) for the construction of the tututuku panels.
The construction included the use of ‘peeled’ totara timber panels on all the walls of the office and foyer. While patterns, designs and Raharuhi Rukupo carving style of the Te Hau ki Turanga Meeting House at Te Papa in Wellington, served as the model for the art work in the room.
In May 1976, with construction near completion, a ‘karakia whakanoa’ Ringatu church service was conducted by Reverend John Tupai Ruru and local tohunga. This lifted the tapu off the building and enabled our women folk to enter and complete their traditional work.
The Mangatu office was formally opened by the Minister of Maori Affairs the Honourable Duncan McIntyre, with the MP for Eastern Maori the Honourable Paraone Reweti and the MP for Gisborne the Honourable Bob Bell in attendance. Chief Judge KG Scott of the Maori Land Court was also a special guest – especially fitting as, prior to his appointment as a Judge of the Maori Land Court, Ken Scott had, for many years, been Mangatu Blocks Incorporation’s legal advisor.
Construction was completed to a budget of $375,148 (including artwork of $36,299). The current insured value is $1,793,508.
The building won a New Zealand Institute of Architecture Award for architecture in 1984.