O Wairoa Marae is situated at 37 Uxbridge Road in Howick, on the site of Emilia Maud Nixon’s Garden of Memories, which she developed in the 1930’s to promote understanding, harmony and goodwill between all people, acknowledging Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki.
In 1931 Emilia commissioned a small folk museum, formerly known as Te Raukohekohe and now known as Te Whare Taonga, to house all her treasures in the gardens. Emilia asked the local Ngāi Tai tribe if she could also commission the building of a whare and with their approval, a miniature wharenui, called Torere, was built. It was dedicated in 1936 by Miss Ngeungeu Beamish, Maunui Kahiwera, Queen Victoria school girls and members of subtribe Ngāi Tai.
In 1962 Emilia passed away and in her will she bequeathed her property, including Te Whare Taonga and Torere, to Howick Borough Council. The property became a public reserve but was untouched for a number of years. In 1983 a local Māori woman, Taini Drummond (Tainui, Ngāti Mahuta) was approached by Howick borough councillor, Vic Longsdale, to help re-open the museum. Taini volunteered her services for many years to help look after and restore Te Whare Taonga before Manukau Council offered her the role of kaitiaki of the gardens.
Meanwile, the miniature wharenui, Torere, fell into disrepair and Manukau Council decided to remove it from the bush. After several meetings a decision was reached that a new wharenui would be built, higher up on the property, with the original carvings attached. In 1991 Torere was re-opened. Acknowledging the vision of Emilia, Taini Drummond and Te Rōpū Awhina O Wairoa Trust opened the wharenui for dignitaries, community groups, kapa haka groups, schools and early childcare, enabling them to participate in Māori cultural practices. Taini held Te Reo beginner’s classes, workshops and programmes centred around the Māori culture.
In October 2004 the wharenui, Torere, became a victim of arson and the fire destroyed the original carvings. Extensive smoke damage meant that nothing could be saved. Plans for a new wharenui were submitted to Manukau council but many members of the Howick community opposed the new plans. Ten years of court battles were accompanied by substantial racial tension within the community. When in 2010 Manukau Council merged with Auckland Council, the plans for the new wharenui were finally approved and the re-building started in 2013 within the grounds of O Wairoa Marae, followed by the opening of the new wharenui in 2014 with the new name of Te Whare o Matariki.
Since 1 July 2022 Auckland Council have contracted Te Tuhi to administer the Marae. Te Tuhi support kaitiaki Taini Drummond and are guided by the volunteer O Wairoa Marae Committee.