Last Thursday night a group of passionate people in New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay settled in for an unforgettable evening of music, song, laughter, food, fine wine and the chance to buy some fantastic art for a great cause. The fifth annual Waiohiki Charity Art Auction kicked into full swing, with proceeds going towards the development of a 21st century marae complex, a vibrant community and cultural center located in Waiohiki. Driving it all behind the scenes and in front was Denis O’Reilly, creative and cultural dynamo.
The marae project has some heavyweight local support and the auction was an all-star event. Power vocalist and personality Frankie Stevens welcomed with a warm rendition of New York, New York (with a good measure of ‘Hawkes Bay, Hawkes Bay’ thrown in). Baritone Wiremu Winetana was a smooth opera-teur as MC for the evening, and Napier MP Chris Tremain was a brilliant auctioneer. Leading lights in attendance included Jenny McIlroy, Chairperson of the Waiohiki Marae Trustees, Mayor of Hastings Lawrence Yule, councillors from near and far, and many local kaumatua (elders), as well as supporting businesses from far afield. I was due to be the guest of honor but business called me to New York and my wife Rowena (above left, with Pauline Tangiora and Denis) attended as my representative. What followed was an unqualified success, with the event raising $95,000 for the marae complex.
I’ve known Denis O’Reilly for a long time. He’s an irresistible force of nature. He makes things happen. Putting a community centre together is a great idea – it will be a source of inspiration for generations to come. The art auction was a great way to lay one of the foundation stones; so again best wishes to Denis and the team behind the Waihoiki marae complex, and good on you to everyone who opened their hearts – and their wallets.