All hands on deck for marae facelift

By Peter de Graaf

A Far North marae has been transformed beyond recognition in Marae DIY's most ambitious makeover to date.

Haititai Marangai Marae, at Whatuwhiwhi on the Karikari Peninsula, has been the epicentre of a massive community effort as up to 150 people toiled daily from dawn to as late as 2am to complete the transformation in just four days.

The TV series, made by Screentime for Maori Television, is now in its 10th year and features a different marae every episode.

Project coordinator Shane Horan, co-owner of timber mills in Whangarei and Waipapa, said whanau had come from as far away as Wellington, Christchurch and Australia to pitch in. They had been joined by suppliers, sponsors, DoC staff and trades apprentices from Linton army camp near Palmerston North.

The wharenui, which had been ''in a bad way'', had been stripped virtually back to its framing and rebuilt with a covered entrance added. The wharekai had been re-roofed and extended with outdoor eating and food preparation areas.

The surroundings had also been transformed with a huge amount of landscaping, rock walls and planting.

''Initially we thought this was a DIY project for our marae, but now we actually think it was a tool to bring everybody home - to unite whanau that hadn't seen each other for a long time. We've all met close relations we'd never seen before.''

AIA Marae DIY producer Nix Jaques said Haititai Marangai was the show's most ambitious project to date.

''Every makeover is extreme, but this is the most extreme one yet. It's not just renovations, it's construction.''

However, Ms Jaques said the real kaupapa of the show was to bring whanau home to reconnect with their marae. Their skills and hard work made the makeovers possible.

The show was also a chance to showcase each marae and its characters, she said.

The finished product was revealed on Saturday afternoon to kuia, who had been sent off for a makeover and a bit of pampering of their own.

Marae DIY is commissioned by Maori TV and funded principally by Te Mangai Pahi and AIA Insurance. The new series is due to start screening in June.


An historic site

Ngati Kahu kaumatua Alan Hetaraka said his grandparents' home served as the local place of worship and marae until a church was built in 1948 and a hall from a closed-down school was moved onto the marae site in 1951-52. Following a fundraising campaign by whanau members across the Tasman an ablution block and a wharekai were added in the 1980s.

While the marae's history is relatively short, nearby Patia Bay was the scene of some of the earliest interactions between Maori and Europeans. Captain James Cook sailed past in 1769 - his logbook comment ''Doubtless a bay'' gave the area its modern name - but eight days later the French explorer de Surville, with a sick and starving crew, anchored off the beach.

Mr Hetaraka said the local chief, Ranginui, saved the Frenchmen with food and supplies, They were about to continue their voyage when a storm blew up, damaging the ship and snapping two of its three anchor ropes. One of the anchors is now in the Far North Museum at Te Ahu in Kaitaia.

Once the ship was repaired the Frenchmen kidnapped Ranginui and set sail for South America. The chief died under way, and de Surville himself died when the ship ran into trouble off the coast of Peru.

A plaque near the marae commemorates de Surville's visit. It has sparked controversy both for its location and for neglecting to mention the fate of Ranginui.

The marae's first Anzac Day

The most poignant moment of an ambitious marae makeover came at dawn on April 25, when Haititai Marangai Marae marked Anzac Day for the first time since it was built near Whatuwhiwhi in the early 1950s.

An estimated 400 people took part in a dawn parade to the newly erected flagpole for a service led by three ministers. Among those taking part were veterans from Malaya, East Timor, Afghanistan and current UN missions.

Service coordinator Tim Hetaraka, a Malaya veteran and a former infantry regiment Sergeant, said he had been a parade marshall at the last seven Anzac Day ceremonies at the Cenotaph in Auckland, but Thursday's service at Haititai Marangai Marae was special.

''It was quite emotional. I couldn't believe the number of people here,'' he said.

Mr Hetaraka hoped it would become an annual event, but that was up to the people of the Karikari Peninsula.

Although small in population the area had sent 27 young men overseas in World War I, he said. A similar number joined the 28th Maori Battalion in World War II.

- Northern Advocate

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