Wynae Tukere has worked in the dining hall at Turangawaewae Marae since she was ten years old. Today she is second in charge and oversees the food prepared and served to several thousand people at the week-long 10th Coronation of King Tūheitia.
The food preparation at Turangawaewae Marae is done at the lower level known as 'The Dungeon' - it's where the slicing, dicing, shelling and shucking happens. The food is then sent ‘upstairs’ by a lift to be dished up and served.
Feeding up to 600 to 1000 people per sitting, the kitchen is a well-oiled machine. One person at the helm is Wynae Tukere who says that is in addition to the sandwich crews that serve people on early mornings, the kitchen supplies canteen food and the food available during the festivities by the Waikato River at the weekend.
At ten years old Wynae started off in the kitchen as a waitress.
A few years down the track she worked solely on washing and drying the tea towels.
Today, she is second in charge of Kimiora, the wharekai at Turangawaewae Marae, arguably one of the largest marae dining halls in the country.
It’s no easy feat to run the kitchen during the Koroneihana (Coronation of King Tuheitia). Planning starts six months out and there are a range of committees and meticulous planning. But Wynae’s work is a culmination of succession planning.
“I’ve had to learn. My mum has always been a part of the marae and the general running. It’s a learning curve and you have got to make it your own. All of us have different roles within the koroneihana and mine within the last ten years has been in the kitchen."
There are experienced meat-cutters - former workers from the meat processing plant Silver Fern Horotiu are charged with cutting up the meat, slicing it and vacuum-packing it. A large chiller container sits at the back of the wharekai that stores all the vegetables. There’s the heavy, stainless steel appliances that washes and prepares the vegetables that would otherwise be a labourius task.
Wynae says that during the week, the local kids will go to the marae and toast trays of bread before heading off to school. It’s a whanau effort.
“Well, there’s been some huge changes in our kitchen. I’m grateful we have the machinery and tools that make it easier for us. Before that we had big bins to wash the dishes, today we have got this machine and a conveyer belt".
Pokaia Nepia has seen many changes over the past 50 years at the Koroneihana. As the chairman of the Turangawaewae Marae Trust his job is to see the operations of the marae.
Mr Nepia remembers vividly the opening of Kimiora in 1974 by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip. At the time he was one of the workers in the kitchen and remembers Princess Anne and Mark Phillips dining in the wharekai with the people while her parents ate with the late Dame Te Ataairangikaahu and Whatumoana inside Mahinaarangi.
He also talks about some of the changes he seen in the last 50 years.
“The Koroneihana was a lot different, we didn’t have the iPad or phones. People came from the motu. They travelled by bus, we had about 20 or 30 buses”
Nō Ngāti Koroki, Jesse Huriwai travelled from Wellington to attend the Koroneihana. It's an annual trip on the calendar for the Porirua-based Kōhanga Reo Kaiako (Early child Language Teacher). He talks about Te Puna o Tawhiao, a freshwater spring located metres from the Waikato River.
In an archival recording from 1966, Ngāti Maniapoto leader, writer and genealogist Pei te Hurinui Jones (1898 – 1976) talks about the original base for the Māori Monarch.
Archival material supplied by Ngā Tāonga Sound and Vision