Tauranga man Des Tatana Kahotea has received a prestigious award for his contribution to Maori culture for his book Te Tu Hanga Whare o Whetu: The Rebuilding of Te Whetu o Te Rangi.

Mr Kahotea was the recipient of the Mahi Toi (arts section) of the 2015 Nga Kupu Ora Maori Book award.

His book documents the rebuilding of the 90-year-old Tauranga meeting house, Te Whetu o Te Rangi Marae, after it was destroyed in a fire in 2006.

After learning of its destruction, Mr Kahotea drove from Kawhia to his marae knowing he wanted help rebuild.


"When I turned up, I was already planning for the replacement ... most people were pretty shattered," he said.

He started taking photographs and noting the damage.

He continued to document the efforts of locals as they made art works and carvings and navigated the Maori customs associated with the rescue and rebuild of the marae over the next few years.

Mr Kahotea said there was a need to record the history of the meeting house which was first built in 1915, the fire which destroyed it, the rebuild and those involved in the process.

"For the marae and the people who did it together, I thought the quick time we did it in and the patience of the people, it was good to record and document something like that."

"Not many communities have the opportunity to do something like that."

The rebuild was done by about 100 locals over the two-year period, he said.

Mr Kahotea said the quality was of a high standard.


"I pushed people and had a difficult time at first but once they understood they went for it, everybody rose to the occasion."

The book can be purchased at kahotea.com

The awards

The Nga Kupu Ora Maori Book Awards are held every year to mark Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori, Maori Language Week at Massey University and to celebrate and encourage excellence in Maori literature and publishing.