The road to a new library wasn’t easy for Blueskin Bay residents. Working in partnership with Dunedin City Council (DCC), they had the unenviable job of raising $360,000, and then, as the Dunedin Stadium debt kicked in for the DCC, their contribution of $500,000 was in jeopardy.

But despite the fiscal pressure on the council, they stuck by their commitment and the project was able to proceed.

As well as the financial challenges, the plan for the library upgrade wasn’t welcomed by everyone in the community. It’s fair to say those uncertainties had been left behind by opening day and the upgraded library was celebrated by a large gathering – despite the clash with the opening day for duck shooting season.

At the invitation of David Ellison, Upoko for Kāti Huirapa Rūnaka ki Puketeraki, Kerry and Roka Cameron from the Waitati-based Whānau Arohanui Trust led the whakawātea for the new complex and blessed the tekoteko and tukutuku that were made for the library. This was followed by a mihi whakatau, where Roka Cameron gave a piupiu for Mahana Walsh made from hōhere, into the care of Phyllis Smith.

The piupiu, named Mahana, is a replica of one worn by Mahana as young girl. Roka had seen it in photos Mahana had shown her.

Roka also had a very special taoka for David Ellison. It was a korowai named ‘Maumahara’ that Roka initially made to dress a poupou at an exhibition held in Ōtautahi around the time of World War I. This unique and beautiful korowai adorned with peacock feathers, an emblem of Gallipoli, is going to be lined with the Taylor tartan, which is David’s mother’s family tartan. It was an emotional time, as Roka spoke about why the taoka were being gifted and the significance of each of them.

The new library was officially opened by David Cull, Mayor of Dunedin. At the opening, David Ellison spoke about his time in the Yukon, where he helped establish the first library in Mayo. The Canadian Indian communities in the Yukon were just opening their first schools in the 1960s and libraries in those communities were a new concept.

David related that as a way of getting a library in Mayo, they combined it with a new building for the returned servicemen. The end result was a library open during the day and a servicemen’s club opened in the evenings, in the same premises; an unusual arrangement but one that worked in Mayo at that time.

Luckily in Waitati, the hall is already well established as part of the community complex that houses the library.

Nā Suzanne Ellison.

Waitati kaiwhakairo, Alex Whitaker, with the wahine tekoteko, Blueskin Bay Community Complex.

The tukutuku panel in the Blueskin Bay Community Complex.