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March 1999, Volume 10, Number 3
'Most Beautiful Place in the World' Sees the Light
Creating employment opportunities is the name of the game on the East Coast as locals work together to create a millennium festival on the "most beautiful site in the world."
"It is about assisting and nurturing people's dreams into reality as a marketable product," says Community Employment Group adviser Ripeka Winitana.
Ripeka has been working with Te Kowhai Charitable Trust -- an organisation set up to run a three-day millennium festival.
The project began when local land owners Barney and Parekowhai Whaitiri were approached by a major tour ship company to run a festival.
The Whaitiri's land, near Gisborne, is beside the sea with the white cliffs of Te Kuri (Young Nick's Head) as the backdrop. "This is the most beautiful site in the world to see the sun come up," says Barney.
Initially the couple were reluctant, but agreed to think about the proposal.
They soon realised the idea had the potential to create employment and income for the surrounding community and marae.
Two years of work have now gone into developing the festival.
A Wellington production company has been hired to organise the event and 20 local marae have been working closely to develop local opportunities such as marae accommodation and hangi food.
A percentage of profits from the event will go to local marae and to a Polynesian Cultural Centre planned for Gisborne.
"This is not only an opportunity to create employment for local Maori and Pakeha but also an opportunity for groups to make some much-needed revenue."
Parekowhai is organising stalls for craftspeople and artists, sculptors and potters.
Barney is grateful for the advice and support offered by Ripeka. "She helped us set up the legal structures. We really had no idea of how to go about it."
Kaumatua from three local iwi chair the charitable trust and will ensure revenue generated is distributed equitably.
Participants on training courses and local people will be used to work on the site, building fencing and landscaping.
"There will be a big cultural aspect to the event," says Barney.
The opening ceremony will include the arrival of 15 waka taua (ocean-going waka) from throughout New Zealand and a powhiri from tangata whenua.
Interest in attending has already come from an international group called Planet Earth Peace Day.
The group aims to encourage people worldwide to stand for one minute in silence in a bid to encourage world peace at the dawn of the new millennium.
Ripeka says the event will bring together expertise from throughout the community.
It will be professionally co-ordinated and very family orientated, offering culture, art and music. "Everything will be centred around the beach.
"People will have a chance to see that they can market their natural resources. They can be the guardians, owners and controllers of their own destiny."
And the Whaitiri family hopes the event may be the beginning of an annual festival centred in the area.
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