Photo recall: This meeting house needs a whanau size helping of TLC

By Chloe Winter

Christmases at the marae were always memorable and could be again with the rebuilding efforts of widespread family.

Photo / Michael Tubberty, Photo research / Emma Land
Photo / Michael Tubberty, Photo research / Emma Land

Anaru Ruruku is gone, but his dream of restoring his family's meeting house lives on.

Back in 1987, the Taumarunui man embarked on a fundraising drive to restore his family marae in Piriaka - but Ruruku admitted to the Herald that the monthly social evenings held there would not be enough to generate the "small fortune" needed to restore the rimu and totara building to its former glory.

The Lotteries Commission had a dedicated fund for the protection and restoration of New Zealand's often dilapidated marae - but Ruruku said he was pinning his hopes on winning Lotto. That, he believed, was what it would take.

Though Anaru Ruruku died 10 years ago, his son, Rangi, has inherited his frustration.

Rangi Te Ruruku says the marae, which dates back to the early 1900s, has not changed and it looks much the same as it did in 1987.

"There's nothing much to see up there at the moment," he says. "I'm disgusted. It's really, really run down."

The 68-year-old says he does not know what happened to the money that his dad raised to restore the meeting house.

He wants to give the do-up another go but there are many people to consult and get permission from.

"I go back there now and again and try to look at ways of getting it done up, but I can't really move until I get consent from the rest of the wider family.

"I don't want to make decisions on my own, so it would be good if I had some other family to help me out and say, 'Yeah, we will go ahead and do this', then I'm not sort of battling it on my own."

Rangi Te Ruruku hopes that once it is restored it will bring the community and his family back together for celebrations, like the Christmases they once spent there. "Some of the family haven't even met each other."

Te Ruruku enjoyed growing up in Piriaka on his ancestors' land and vividly remembers their summer celebrations when the family would get together at the marae.

"When I was young, I always looked forward to Christmas. We had these big meals and it was every child's dream. There are a lot of fond memories."

The meeting house was used as a venue for dances, family functions and kapa haka. He says restoring the meeting house is going to be hard, but it is an ambition he wants to achieve - not only for his father, but also for his whole family.

- Herald on Sunday

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