The life long dream of a Tuhourangi kaumatua to see his iwi return to Tarawera is inching closer to reality as they seek funding for their state-of-the-art marae.

Kaumatua Anaru Rangiheuea revealed plans last year to have a marae built on a ridge overlooking Lake Tarawera and Mt Tarawera.

The contemporary marae, believed to be the first of its kind, will have solar lighting and large glass panels overlooking the lake and mountain at Tarawera.

It will be the first marae rebuilt in the area since the 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption, which obliterated the land, marae and many members of the Tuhourangi tribe.

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Conservation Minister Maggie Barry, centre, walks to the site of the proposed marae at Lake Tarawera. Photo/Ben Fraser
Conservation Minister Maggie Barry, centre, walks to the site of the proposed marae at Lake Tarawera. Photo/Ben Fraser

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry was invited to the site today where she could see the realities of what the funding would be put to.

As part of her visit she helped plant two totara at the entrance to the site to herald the future development of the marae for Tuhourangi on the ancestral land known as "Te Anga Tokiniho".

Ms Barry said Tuhourangi had been very patient in the process of bringing its people back to their land.

"The [marae] is a wonderful design, very modern - Anaru is a visionary.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry talks with Huru Maika at the site of the proposed marae at Lake Tarawera. Photo/Ben Fraser
Conservation Minister Maggie Barry talks with Huru Maika at the site of the proposed marae at Lake Tarawera. Photo/Ben Fraser

"Tuhourangi deserve a second home. I am here to listen with my ears and heart and see with my eyes and heart."

Mr Rangiheuea said the design was modern but also incorporated traditional features.

He said it was a great honour to host Ms Barry and it was a "pleasure to start something and have someone working on this with us".

Tuhourangi kaumatua Anaru Rangiheuea speaks at today's pohiri at Lake Tarawera. Photo/Ben Fraser
Tuhourangi kaumatua Anaru Rangiheuea speaks at today's pohiri at Lake Tarawera. Photo/Ben Fraser

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the marae had been a dream of Mr Rangiheuea for as long as she had known him.

"He's been talking about this project for at least 30 years and what I think will be quickly realised is this is not just another application for another marae, there is a real story here - the story of Tarawera."

Tuhourangi Tribal Authority chairman Alan Skipwith said the purpose of today's meeting was to make the minister aware of their plans and talk about joint environmental projects.

"It's been a long process getting to this stage but these things take time and we are making progress.

"This marae would be the last step to have our people reconnect with our land. We're all around and come back to commemorate the eruption but this marae will allow us to reconnect permanently."

The project's timeline is subject to funding but Tuhourangi hope to have it completed within the next three to five years.