A group of arts students were yesterday putting some of the finishing touches to a series of works which will highlight the continuing development of Napier's Pukemokimoki Marae in its 10th anniversary celebrations this week.

The students of Te Wananga o Aotearoa, under the watch of tutor Chris Bryant, who was involved in the artwork incorporated in the marae when it opened in 2007, have been working mainly at weekends to complete the murals in time for the blessing which opens the three-day commemoration on Friday.

Mr Bryant said the work included being taken on a "hikoi" by historian Pat Parsons to explain the heritage and local knowledge to be used in the art that will be placed in the wharenui of the marae off Riverbend Rd, on the southern outskirts of Napier.

Anniversary celebrations co-ordinator Maureen Mua said: "We are an involving marae."
"We are also the busiest," she said, highlighting a calendar of near-daily bookings.

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While only a decade old, the marae has a long history, dating back to interest in building a marae in the Maraenui area following the urbanisation of the 1950s and 1960s, and fundraising groups were initiated, with hopes of building in the suburb or in the wide Napier area, including near the Ahuriri Estuary.

After being dormant for some years, new interest was sparked by concern about the lack of a marae for tangi, and the clogging of suburban streets as funeral gatherings took place at private homes, particularly after the deaths of eight people when a housebus plunged 50 metres off the Mohaka Bridge between Napier and Taupo in September 1995.

Meetings called within a few weeks led to the formation the following year of the Maraenui Marae Establishment Trust, which with major Napier City Council help guided the planning and building of the marae at the Riverbend Road frontage of Maraenui Park.

The council help was the catalyst to major grants from the Lotteries Commission and the Eastern and Central Community Trust, and, with a rock already in place to claim the site, the now-late Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia turned the soil in December 2004 to signal the start of a project which would see the marae built with wharenui, sleeping up to 100 people, large wharekai seating up to 300, and amenities.

It was opened in an all-day ceremony starting before dawn on October 6, 2007, the Pukemokimoki name coming from that of an island that was flattened for reclamation which was begun in the 1870s and the fern that was unique to its habitat.

Simultaneous to the opening the establishment trust handed over the complex to a new trust which had been formed to develop the protocols and governance, and to run a unique urban marae which retains civic involvement with one city councillor on its trust and other management support.

As well as tangi, weddings and other family-based events, the marae has been used extensively for meetings, seminars and educational events, election candidate hui, and hosting welcomes to the city, hosting such people as Ironmaori competitors and visiting international rugby teams, the signing of the Wai 692 Napier Hospital Services Claim settlement in 2008 and an historic first Napier City Council meeting on a marae in 2014.

A cluttered month of events in Napier, including the 150th anniversary of St Joseph's Maori Girls College, meant a decision was made to hold the marae event later in the month.

The commemoration opens with a dawn service at 5.30am on Friday, including blessing of the murals which will adorn the walls of the wharekai. A programme of entertainment including bands on the marae is planned for Saturday afternoon, and a combined church service will be held on Sunday.