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Built as a symbol of the unity, strength and resilience of Ngati Awa - a people who had suffered severely at the hands of colonisation and resulting land confiscation, the impressive Mataatua Wharenui was originally opened in Whakatane in 1875.
Five years later, the intricately carved Maori house was uplifed by the New Zealand Government to represent the country at some of the most respected anthropological exhibitions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
For well over a century, Mataatua, the travelling house, would be lost to the people who needed it most. Despite calls by successive Ngati Awa leaders to have the house returned to Whakatane, Mataatua would remain alone, without its people and miles from home.
A 1996 Waitangi Tribunal Special Deed of Settlement finally saw Mataatua returned to Ngati Awa. The past 15 years have been dedicated to restoring Mataatua to its original magnificence.
On September 17, 2011, 130 years after it first left these shores, Ngati Awa and the Mataatua confederation of tribes celebrated the return and reopening of the house that came home.