Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I’ve spent some weeks now trying to find out about this gorgeous little whare - called Te Whakaruruhau - which I spied on Ferry Road here in Christchurch, when I was driving past one day. Turns out it was once part of the now-closed Te Waipounamu Maori Girls’ College, and Anglican initiative that was established in 1909 in the old St Alban's Vicarage in Mill Road, Ohoka, not too far from the Maori settlement of Tuahiwi (home to the Ngai Tahu hapu, Ngai Tuahuriri).
Tuahiwi was a large, thriving Maori community then and was also home to a Maori mission, which was established in the 19th century. I’ve featured the historic Maori church (1867) on this blog previously. It still is a largely Maori community but it's much smaller - now a cluster of houses, primary school, sports grounds, the church, a marae - just north of Christchurch.
Te Waipounamu was the only Maori girls’ boarding school in the South Island and by 1921 (1926 according to some other accounts), it had moved to Christchurch and girls from all over New Zealand attended because of the school’s excellent reputation for teaching Maori language and culture. This beautifully carved little whare was the old school chapel. In Christchurch, the school served many decades and then became a college hostel for Maori school girls. The site – to the best of my knowledge – is now a Maori cultural centre incorporating a hostel and educational facilities. That’s all I’ve been able to find out. If anyone has any further information, I’d love you to leave a comment below.