On Sunday 23 September, the R. Tucker Thompson held the formal opening of their new whare. The weather was fine, and around 100 people gathered at the end of the wharf to join the Tucker whanau for their special day. It was a day that was over 30 years in the making, and for the past 3 years the Trust has worked on designing fit for purpose and affordable new premises.
On the day, kaumatua Arapeta Hamilton (Ngati Manu), who has a long association with the ship over the past 25 years, guided the proceedings. Recently ordained Chris Swannell, and kaumatua Willie Cash (Ngati Hine), blessed the new whare in English and Maori.
Kelvin Davis (Ngati Manu, Minister for Tai Tokerau and Minister of Tourism) spoke about the ship’s role in developing the youth of Tai Tokerau, particularly in their leadership skills. Russell Harris acknowledged the people who had looked after the ship over the years, noting that around 40 skippers had started their careers on board. Chyna Hanney spoke on behalf of the current crew to say how the new building would make a big difference particularly for maintenance. Joe Brown from Pou Herenga Tangata, having undertaken three voyages on board the ship himself, spoke on behalf of former trainees. Like so many others, he had benefited from being on the water, learned teamwork and gained confidence.
Deputy Mayor Tania McInness and representatives of Far North Holdings also spoke to acknowledge the occasion. Claudie Auvenil presented a beautiful painting of the ship, painted by Bill Sellars, who was a friend of R. Tucker Thompson the man. Retired Bishop Ben Te Haara spoke, noting that it was 12 year ago since he took part in the blessing of the ship when she was transferred to the people of Tai Tokerau.
The recently-restored and much-loved mural by local artist Helen Pick, which tells the story of both Opua and the ship, were on display. These are soon to be reinstated on the new building to once more welcome sailors, voyagers and visitors to the port of Opua.
The new Tucker office featured a display of charts used during the ship’s celebrated voyage to England in 1986. The navigator’s charts chronicle the voyage through the Pacific, Panama Canal, Atlantic and return down under. The barometer soundings show the track of the legendary Atlantic hurricane that our gallant ship and crew experienced and survived.
With speeches and ceremonies completed, all were treated to traditional R. Tucker Thompson scones, cream and jam, and a sausage sizzle.