Linda Jones residents, team members and kaumatua from all of Kirikiriroa’s hapu have gathered together to celebrate the completion of the Hamilton village.
Kaumatua from Te Haa o te whenua o Kirikiriroa (THaWK) – a group representing all of Hamilton’s hapu – celebrated at a karakia supported by Ryman’s taha Māori kaitiaki Irihapeti Bullmore.
Two special taonga (treasures) – a South Island pounamu and a kākahu (contemporary shawl) – were presented to the village by Ryman Healthcare to mark the occasion which was accompanied by some beautiful singing from the Linda Jones choir.
The event acknowledged the history of the Pa (traditional village) of Ngāti Wairere that preceded what stands today.
Kōiwi (bones) – which later turned out to be the remains of a young woman – were found on the site during an early phase of construction and re-interred at Taupiri.
A kōhatu pounamu, a flower stone, was gifted by the whānau of Leisa Aumua, who works at Ryman Healthcare in Christchurch. The stone came from the Arahura River on the West Coast of the South Island.
It is a remembrance stone for the young woman and now takes pride of place in the reflection room at the village.
The kākuhu was woven for the wahine, to represent peace for her in eternity.
Te Haa o te whenua o Kirikiriroa Chair Sonny Karena acknowledged the taonga and the commitment made to recognising mana whenua.
Irihapeti Bullmore thanked Sonny and Te Haa o te whenua o Kirikiriroa for their commitment and support.
“It is a pleasure to have you here at our Linda Jones whare and I want to thank you for all you have done to nurture the mauri – the lifeforce – of the people here.’’
“This binds us together. It is not the end of the job, it is a continuation of our relationship together.’’
Head of Communications and External Relations New Zealand David King and New Zealand General Manager Operations Liz Dilger speak at the karakia (above) and the Ryman team with representatives from Te Haa o te whenua o Kirikiriroa (top).
New Zealand General Manager Operations Liz Dilger also took the chance to thank Matua Piripi Matika, who had provided cultural support throughout the project.
Matua Piripi is a representative of Ngāti Wairere – the hapu closest to the village.
“Thank you Piripi, your support, wisdom and interest in this village from the outset has been fantastic,’’ Liz said.
“We appreciate everything you have done, and your support – in particular for the construction team, has meant a lot.
In his speech Piripi took time to make special mention of Paewai Tume, who had been Ryman Construction’s site administrator throughout.
“I want to acknowledge the rangatira Paewai. He was the first man here and he will be the last to leave – thank you Paewai.’’
As well as thanking iwi, Liz took the chance to acknowledge everyone who had worked on Linda Jones and continued to do so.
“Thank you to everyone who had worked so hard to build and to open the village on the banks of the Waikato River. It is a beautiful village in a magnificent setting.
From left: New Zealand General Manager Operations Liz Dilger, Site Administrator Paewai Tume, Ngāti Wairere representative Matua Piripi Matika and Ryman's taha Māori kaitiaki Irihapeti Bullmore touching the pounamu.
“As the final touches are made to the final stage, it is appropriate that we say the biggest thank you to our construction team.
“Thank you all. It is amazing. You have put your hearts and souls in.’’
Liz also had a special thank you for village manager Neville Parkinson and the team who had got the village up and running over the past three years.
“You built it, but Neville and the team brought it to life.
“Recruiting a team, getting the place running and then turning it into a home, and ironing out a few kinks along the way, is a huge job.
“Neville – thank you – you and the team have done a wonderful job. I’ve been in your shoes, and I know how tough it is.’’