Sixty years of meeting house memories

Friday October 20, 2017 Written by Published in Local
A large crowd dressed in colourful clothing - made for a very happy atmosphere to celebrate the Ruatonga meeting house’s milestone. 17101918 A large crowd dressed in colourful clothing - made for a very happy atmosphere to celebrate the Ruatonga meeting house’s milestone. 17101918

If it’s possible to love a building, it was certainly proven on Wednesday morning, when around 150 people turned out to celebrate the 60th anniversary of “Te Rua O Te Tonga,” the tapere’s meeting house, and the many memories with which it has blessed the local community over the years.


And, although it wasn’t expected to be a big day by organisers, it ended up being the buzz of Avarua township, with a large crowd of people, young and old, spilling out onto the roadside opposite the Punanga Nui market and capturing the attention of many passers-by. 

The festivities were attended by deputy prime minister Teariki Heather, Tinomana Ariki, and New Zealand High Commissioner Peter Marshall, as well as distinguished members of the Ruatonga community and overseas guests.

Pu Tapere Tangi Kapi said the three weeks of hard work and preparation behind the scenes had paid off with a great day to remember, and the scene had taken him back to where it all began.

He was just 20 years old when the centre opened for its first celebration on 18 October 1957 and remembers it, just like it was yesterday.

“That was a much bigger celebration, with all the districts invited along, and their different dancing groups. And they danced along the main road from Tupapa to here.

“Today I wanted a low key one. But it looks like a big one too, much bigger than what I expected.”

Kapi said one reason he wanted to keep it low key this year was due to the potential costs to put on an event such as this. “But everyone said, ‘No, we want it big’.”

It all came together on the day, and Kapi said he was grateful to all the people who gave generously to help recoup costs.

Kapi, about to celebrate his own milestone - his 80th birthday, also spoke emotionally of the Pa Metua who have been involved with the meeting house over the years, but have since passed away, leaving behind only him and a couple of others of his vintage.

He said the meeting house held a special place in the hearts of those of his generation and the generations since; having been used for hundreds of village and community meetings, church-related uapou gatherings, kaikai and funerals.

“Our village people like working together, the fathers, our mothers, the children”, he said. He remembered the Sunday school which he attended with his Sunday school teacher mother, at the meeting house many years ago.

And, speaking of the exponential growth and social change that Rarotonga has experienced in the past 60 years, he said, “As I look back on the road that we have come, I didn’t expect the level of change that we have had.

 “It’s is a different Rarotonga now, and with it comes the problem with our youth. Big problems for our youth… because today people think more about money than their own welfare.”

But it was clear on Wednesday how important the youth of today are to the Ruatonga village.

Children were front and centre for the celebration, taking their turns reciting pieces of poetry composed for the anniversary, showing great courage, speaking in front of the large crowd.

And following an unveiling of memorial plaques for the building, speeches and cutting of the cake, everyone enjoyed a substantial kaikai, with even passing tourists being invited into the grounds to take part in the celebration.

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