The Early Years... Mangatu has a long history of formally managing Maori land leased to European farmers in Te Tairawhiti and, in doing so, has brought to Gisborne’s city centre a unique sense of cultural identity.
Originally Mangatu lands were administered by the East Coast Commissioner, a Government appointed position. Located on the corner of Grey Street and Palmerston Road, the small building still remains today next door to the present Gisborne Post Office building and is one of the few examples of Maori Motif Art Deco in the region.
In 1947 Mangatu Blocks set up as an Incorporation and, some time after, the administration was located at the office of the late Eddie Hooper in Lowe Street. However, the first Mangatu Blocks office was is generally accepted as being located on the site of the Maori Affairs Building in Lowe Street, now called Nga Wai e Rua House.
The administration of Mangatu Blocks moved to Cobden Street in 1954. Utilising both office and joinery factory space, the Incorporation created work opportunities and training for Mahaki people. While the factory eventually ceased operating in the mid 1950’s, the office and administration remained at Cobden Street until 1976, accommodating approximately nine office staff, a small committee meeting room in which Committee met regularly, and a headquarters for all its business. The annual and special general meetings of shareholders over the years were held either at Marae or in reception rooms in Gisborne city.
During these years the Incorporation developed and expanded its operations to become a unique, large and powerful Maori farming business, both nationally and internationally. Along with this expansion arose the need for an appropriately unique administrative building from which to conduct operations, to host all business connections and to hold general meetings of shareholders.
The Current Building: In the early 1970’s the Committee decided that part of the income received from the Pine Milling Timber Company in Rotorua be set aside as a reserve fund to build a new office building for the Incorporation.
In December 1972 a decision was made to purchase two sections totalling half an acre in Childers Road (belonging to Mr R Steele) as well as a quarter acre section on Waitangi Street (that backed on to the Childers Road lot) for the grand sum of $28,384.
A large two-storied unoccupied residence on one Childers Road site was immediately cleared and still stands as a vacant section today. Significantly, the Waitangi Street section had been totally planted with native trees and plants by the parents of the late Roy and Vic Ivess in the early 1900’s. The Committee wished to use the plantation as part of the total landscaping plan and the decision was made to build the Meeting Hall in to the plantation. It is now one of the Mangatu offices best kept secrets – a hundred old nature reserve in the centre of the city with a kauri tree, over 100 years old, dominating the view from the ceiling to floor windows of the Meeting Hall.
Planning also commenced with respected Gisborne architects, the late Bruce Glengarry and the late Jock Corson, of Glengarry, Corson and Partners. Their brief was to design a building to accommodate office administration, a committee boardroom and a hall for general meetings for up to 250 shareholders.