The first ever Southland Heritage Forum began at Te Rau Aroha Marae in Bluff last night. A good-sized crowd of heritage enthusiasts were welcomed onto the marae just after dusk.
Inside the colourful wharenui (not pictured), Dean Whaanga (Te Ao Marama) told some of the stories behind the symbol-rich interior. It was a most enlightening experience especially for those who had never been on a marae before.
Afterward, a delicious meal was served in the wharekai (pictured above), and Dean (pictured at right) continued with a deeper discussion on Maori heritage.
Today, the forum continued at Southland Boys High School. Keynote speakers included David Wilson of Victorian Oamaru, Jackie Gurden (pictured below right), Heritage West Coast, and Jock Phillips, General Editor of Te Ara online NZ encyclopedia. All were inspirational, but Jackie's presentation lit a few fires among us. The successes of West Coast towns in heritage tourism are impressive because much is due to the work of volunteers. She showed us how to embrace new technologies to make heritage more accessible to the tech-savvy people of today.
Participants enjoyed a full day of workshops and guest speakers. I left before the evening meal at the Masonic Lodge and presentations but I'm sure they were top class. Business sessions take place on Sunday.
Thanks to the Southland Rural Heritage Trust for organising this event and creating the possibility of a positive and prosperous future for Southland heritage.
We're open Wednesdays and Sundays, 2pm-4pm, and by request. Your comments are always welcome!