Kiribati Community Plans New Cultural Center

Radio New Zealand Pacific Journalist, Sela Jane Hopgood, wrote an article about how the Kiribati community in New Zealand is looking to bring a new cultural center to the heart of the Rodney district, through a community space resembling the design of a traditional Kiribati Manaeba or meeting house.

The largest population of i-Kiribati families reside in Warkworth and Rodney district in the northern part of the Auckland region. There are nearly 600 people of i-Kiribati descent living in Warkworth, with families settling there for work opportunities such as seasonal employment since the 1980s.

The Kiribati Integrated Manaeba Project (KIMP) proposed by the Kiribati Aotearoa Diaspora Directorate (KADD), a youth-led charitable trust, will work primarily as a centre for the celebration and promotion of Kiribati culture, while being a space to be shared with other Pacific communities in the country. It is planned to be a multi-purpose building with the tripartite aim of providing an office space, transitional housing and an outdoor community space.

Chairperson of KADD Rae Bainteiti said the newly planned centre will be able to host numerous events and functions. “From exhibitions and community fairs, to community-building functions including orientations for new migrants, diversion community programs, domestic violence support groups and community kitchens. We would love to have other programs for the community for example celebrating of the independence for different ethnicity groups, the language weeks,” he said.

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A Kiribati Manaeba- photo by http://www.taste2travel.com

The space will also serve as a hub to share Kiribati culture. “Through Pacific festivals and youth art programmes, incorporating contemporary and traditional arts from Kiribati and New Zealand.”

In Rodney, where there has been a growing population of Pacific people, this project will provide a much-needed cultural space for these new migrants, said Bainteiti. “This has been a long-standing project that the Kiribati community in Warkworth and Rodney have been dreaming of since we started to settle here, for like 30 years now. The center will not only provide the recent migrants a space where they can be reminded of home, but also a vital monument to honour their culture as they adapt to life in New Zealand.”

The KADD team have completed phase one, the consultation process, and the project itself looked like taking a few years to complete. An elder in the Kiribati community that helped open the consultation for KIMP, Eititara Beia, said having a manaeba was a very important part of Kiribati culture, and it was important that’s reflected in the Rodney community. “Back home it’s an important building because it brings us together, you feel like you’re not alone,” she said. “We are so excited about the plans for the centre because it has been a long time coming.

Beia said the next step for the project was looking at funding opportunities to further the project and acquire the necessary land. “We are currently planning ways to fundraise money for the center.”

Unfortunately, due to current restrictions under alert level 3 in Auckland, the next meeting to discuss how to fund the project had been postponed, said Beia. “I was so sad when we had to cancel our meeting due to the lockdown because we have been waiting for years to get this project up and running. “We will be waiting patiently for the government’s next announcement to then plan the next steps for our team to take with this project,” she said.

The land and traditional manaeba will be constructed from sustainable local materials, and be supplemented with passive heating and cooling, alongside an aim for energy self-sufficiency with solar and rainwater harvesting.

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