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New name and brand for Opera House arts and culture complex revealed


Ahead of the Hawke’s Bay Opera House re-opening in February 2020, a name and brand for the overall arts and culture complex is being launched tonight.

The new name for the centre that includes the Opera House, the Municipal Building, the Cushing Foyer and the former Plaza space is “Toitoi – Hawke’s Bay Arts and Events Centre”.

Toitoi manager Megan Peacock-Coyle said her team was inspired and excited by the name.

“This is a new type of venue for our city and a new generation of venue in New Zealand,” she said.

“Toitoi will be the performing arts and events hub for Hastings and will enable community access and participation in the performing arts, events and cultural activities. This is going to create some amazing opportunities for cultural expression and pride.”

Many groups and individuals have been part of the process of finding a name for the complex, which has never before had one name encompassing all its parts.

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said it was another exciting step in the journey of the Hawke’s Bay Opera House towards completion and opening.

“This will give our beloved venue a national and international presence, as well as bring our community together to celebrate our culture and talents.

“With the upgrade of the whole precinct our community will have more than just an Opera House, it will be a world-class performing arts centre."


The name, with its Māori and English components, gives an identity to the complex that conveys a sense of people, place and purpose to audiences and future users on a local, national and international stage.

Toitoi is a Māori word meaning the pinnacle of achievement, and is linked to ideas of excellence, encouragement and motivation. It is also ascribed to the quick movements of fish and birds and, from there, styles of dance and song that mimic them.

There is an extra special link for Hastings and the Ngāti Kahungunu legacy waiata Pōkarekare Ana composed by Paraire Tomoana.

In one of its earliest written versions Pōkarekare Ana was described by ethnologist Elsdon Best as a “toitoi”, a ditty or light-hearted love song that echoed the sound of birds cooing to each other.

It was a type of waiata popular in the 1920s and 30s, particularly in Heretaunga, giving it a unique link to both this place and a time in the district’s history that was significant.

The word ‘toi’ means art and is often used alongside other words in the naming of arts-based organisations. “Toi Toi Toi”, an Italian expression derived from Old German, is an exclamation in the performing arts world (most often in opera) used by performers to wish each other good luck.


The launch of the new name and brand for the overall precinct coincides with community engagement on the future use of the Municipal Building. This is the final part of a consultation programme undertaken over three years.

Earthquake strengthening and the development of the Municipal Building are important to the overall Opera House project and the ongoing revitalisation of the Hastings city centre and the Hastings District Council’s city vibrancy plan. The full potential of Toitoi will be unlocked once this building is complete and opened in 2022.

After consultation with the public, the Council’s preferred option was to have a mix of community, commercial and education offerings in the Municipal Building with some retail and hospitality on the ground floor.

The structural integrity of the first floor will be retained including the heritage Assembly Room and smaller function and meetings spaces. These will also be made available for public hire.


From this Saturday, the community will have the opportunity to give feedback on the preferred option and what it means for Toitoi – Hawke’s Bay Arts & Events Centre.

An information booth will be open at the Hastings City Art Gallery from Saturday, September 7 until Saturday, September 14. Feedback will be reported back to the council on Thursday, September 26.

The information and associated community engagement survey are also available through the Hastings District Council website.

4 September 2019

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