A sod-turning event in Foxton on Sunday proved to be quite a challenge for Dutch Ambassador Rob Zaagman, as he marked the beginning of construction on the multimillion-dollar Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom project.
The multifunctional centre -- right next to windmill "De Molen" -- will include a Dutch museum and cultural centre that will tell the story of the Dutch population in New Zealand.
After a Māori blessing of the ground this morning, Mr Zaagman, Te Taitoa Māori o Te Awahou Trust chair Hayley Bell, and Mayor Brendan Duffy struggled to push a shovel into the grass.
As the crowd erupted in laughter, Mr Zaagman was determined, finally scooping up the dirt and flipping it, which was met with applause from the audience. Satisfied, he plopped the shovel into place.
Along with the Dutch Connection Museum, the project will house the Piraharakeke Generation Inspiration Centre -- an arts and crafts gallery and museum -- and Horowhenua District Council facilities.
Funding for the $7.4 million project has come from various sources, including the council itself, Lotteries grants, and contributions from the Dutch Connection Trust and Te Taitoa Māori o Te Awahou Trust.
Construction begins this month, and the Dutch community has been asked to contribute a total of $1 million to the Foxton project.
Often called the "invisible immigrants" because they integrated so well into New Zealand society, the Dutch community will showcase its history at the museum, starting from the very first Maori contact with Europeans.
Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was the first known European explorer to reach New Zealand, in 1642. Dutch cartographers named the island Nova Zeelandia after the Dutch province of Zeeland.