At 5:30am, Friday 10 February, we gathered outside the new building. Around a hundred souls, representing the 7 iwi of the Far North. It was very dark, surprisingly warm, and the sky was a glittering sea of stars.

Haami Piripi and his granddaughter, both in korowai, took us through the doors, chanting karakia as we went, blessing the building and offering it as a taonga to all of us.

A powerful start to a weekend of finishing touches for the new Te Ahu Centre in Kaitaia. The Centre opened to the public on Monday 13 February.

Te Ahu combines the Far North Regional Museum with the Kaitaia Library, Far North District Council Services Office, iSite, Memorial Hall and Banquet facilities and a new Cinema. There’s a video-conferencing suite, a computer training classroom, a café and the council’s boardroom – all surrounding the impressive atrium.

Story Inc took on the mammoth task of designing not only the Museum, but also the library, café, reception, atrium and all interior finishes and furnishings. It has been one of our most rewarding and exciting projects to date.

Te Ahu: Putting up the Te Rarawa pou, carved by Paul Marshall, January 2012

Te Ahu: Putting up the Te Rarawa pou, carved by Paul Marshall, January 2012

Our determination to use local tradesmen for joinery, steelwork, electrics and labour created an exciting interface with the skilled teams we sent up from Wellington. The result is a centre of which the locals are justifiably proud.

If you’re planning a holiday in the Far North (and you should – it’s paradise!), don’t miss Te Ahu. We believe it’s a model for other regions in New Zealand – a way of combining resources, engaging locals by providing a community hub and telling local stories to visitors.