Stephanie is the Rotorua Daily Post's head of news

Tarawera marae from ashes

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Tuhourangi kaumatua Anaru Rangiheuea (right) and architect Fred Stevens with designs for a proposed marae at Lake Tarawera. Photo / Ben Fraser
Tuhourangi kaumatua Anaru Rangiheuea (right) and architect Fred Stevens with designs for a proposed marae at Lake Tarawera. Photo / Ben Fraser

Plans have been revealed for a contemporary marae with solar lighting and large glass panels to be built overlooking the lake and mountain at Tarawera.

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

Architect Fred Stevens said while no monetary figure had been put to the project at this stage, it would cost at least $2 million to build.

Tuhourangi kaumatua Anaru Rangiheuea has been a key driving force behind the project.

"We have been toying with the idea of building this marae for many years and have decided it is time to bring the idea to life. The Tarawera eruption was a point in history where our people were almost destroyed but they survived and rose out of the ashes.

"Building this new marae is a way of bringing the Tuhourangi people back to Tarawera."

The piece of land pegged to hold the new marae sits on a ridge overlooking Lake Tarawera and Mt Tarawera, and was set aside for "marae purposes", Mr Rangiheuea said.

The contemporary draft design of the wharenui will feature large glass panels and solar-powered lighting. Mr Rangiheuea was prepared for criticism of the contemporary design but hoped people would see its purpose and benefits.

"Yes it is different, but it is also very exciting. This marae is not solely for Tuhourangi, it is for the whole community to use and enjoy."

Mr Stevens said he had always been interested in Maori indigenous architecture and knew Mr Rangiheuea personally so it was a "logical step" for him to get involved in the project.

"I have been living out at Tarawera for about 30 years and have been passionate about Maori architecture since I started studying. When the opportunity came up to work on this marae project with Anaru, it just made sense."

The building was contemporary and modern but still had "traditional marae elements".

"All the elements of a wharenui are there, they are just expressed differently. There hasn't been a marae out here since the eruption so we want to make this project really dynamic and symbolic of rebirth and moving into the future."

Mr Stevens said the marae potentially could put not only Tarawera but also Rotorua on the map. "There is nothing like this anywhere else in New Zealand or the world so I could see it becoming something tourists would go out of their way to see.

"The project is in its early stages but we are hoping building will be completed within the next three to five years."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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