A dream years in the making is on its way to reality after Wellington city councillors agreed last month to further investigate a proposal for a $35 million Pacific Fale near Parliament.
Former MP Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban, alongside Pacific and business communities, worked hard for well over a decade to get a fale malae - a multipurpose hub for the community - in Wellington.
Dame Laban, a member of the Fale Malae Trust Board, told TVNZ1’s Tagata Pasifika the fale was more than just a building. She said it was a chance for New Zealand’s Pacific community to celebrate its heritage and history.
“It's actually about identity and acknowledging and celebrating the huge contribution that Pacific people have made to Aotearoa New Zealand.”
Adrian Wimmers, vice-chair of the Fale Malae Trust Board, said it was hard to know when the project would be completed as it was still very early days.
But he said he hoped it would be complete in two to three years’ time. Mr Wimmers said plans were underway to have Pasifika architects on board the project at a Bunny Street site.
“You can rest assured that Luamanuvao Dame Winne Laban is the wind in our sails and we will keep moving as fast as we possibly can.”
Working alongside Dame Laban is Adrian Orr, Governor of the Reserve Bank.
“The Fale Malae will be an iconic focal point for all those with Pacific heritage to gather, learn and celebrate their arts, cultures, histories and futures,” he said in a statement.
“It will also provide a pathway for Pacific peoples' engagement with higher education, commerce, and political institutions.”
Last month, central Government announced funding of $10 million as part of Budget 2020 to move the fale malae into the next phase of planning and development.
The trust didn’t plan to source funding from the Wellington City Council to meet the $35 million forecasted cost. Instead, alongside funding from the Government, Victoria University of Wellington would contribute $10 million through a debt underwrite.
The trust planned to fundraise the remaining $15 million from philanthropists, local groups and private businesses.
Students from the university were excited to have a place to call home, with the Bunny Street site adjacent to its law faculty and Pipitea Campus.
Student Josephine Lagi said it was important students and public servants of Pacific descent had a place to call home.
International student Winniefred Poutoa said the fale “will make us feel like we’re at home”.
“It will feel like we have somewhere to belong to and be ourselves,” she said.
Wellington City Mayor Andy Foster voted in favour of the project to be investigated further, but said he was aware there was still a lengthy process ahead before construction began.
Some councillors, however, raised concerns over the current lack of detail around plans for the fale.
Mr Foster said the planned site was “not the easiest site” because it had to go through road stopping processes and resource consents.
“If we can get through those processes then, you know, start digging,” he said.