Many local Māori builders are flocking to marae renovation projects to restore iwi pride to their marae.
In October 2020, 19 marae in Heretaunga and Ahuriri received $6 million from the Provincial Growth Fund for the Te Tū Marae ki Te Matau a Māui project.
Houngarea Marae kaumātua Waa Harris said many marae would never have had the funding or would have taken "a very long time" to be able to save for the renovations.
The project is a national initiative to uplift marae, increase skills and provide employment to local Māori.
Yet the project is much more than beautifying and restoration.
Providing meaningful skills, training and mahi for Māori it's also reconnecting whānau and future proofing marae for mokopuna to enjoy for years to come.
Petāne Marae kaumātua Mary Martin said: "it has made such a difference to the marae, and we are hoping that it brings back whānau as there is more to do."
Prestige Limited managing director Lyndon Hakopa is leading the renovations as project manager.
Lyndon and his wife Derisa Hakopa are Hawke's Bay locals who took on the project as it closely aligned with the Prestige Limited kaupapa from the past 28 years; to work with and for Māori.
"Our marae are taonga that represent who we are as Māori."
"We feel privileged to deliver the much-needed work on our marae alongside whānau and to help change lives by providing opportunities for kaimahi to get the experience and skills that they can pass on," Derisa said.
Lyndon and his group of builders are now 12 months into the Te Tū Marae ki Te Matau a Māui project and going strong.
The project was expected to be completed this November. However, it was slowed due to limitations across the building industry and the need to respect marae protocol where tangihanga and whānau take precedence.
Despite Covid lockdowns, shortages of materials and tradespeople, the group have achieved many of their goals.
"We are about 75 per cent of the way through the project, with works in progress at 15 marae," Lyndon said.
As well as creating "at least 40 new jobs" Prestige Limited have ensured 90 per cent of the project kaimahi are Māori or Pasifika with many young apprentices working on-site,
"We try to use Māori owned sub-contractors as much as we can", Lyndon said.
Many unique experiences and opportunities have come out of the project.
Builder Shonn Roberts moved to the company specifically to work on the marae and train young apprentices.
Roberts said he took the job for several reasons. "It pulled on my heartstrings and made me think, instead of building new homes for random people, I could work on my own marae.
"Being able to work on the whare tipuna, I thought of my ancestors doing the mahi before me, and now it's my time to use my knowledge and put my work into it, and to also share my knowledge with the young ones coming through."