An historic marae in Ōhau is about to become accessible to the wider community.

Kaumātua Ken Kuiti was a trustee of the iwi who grew up in the area and said it was important to the survival of Kikopiri Marae that it was opened up to the wider Ōhau community.

"We want to make it live again," he said.

It was way of ensuring the future of the Kikopiri marae and that it remained relevant and connected to the community in the future.

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"It should be here for the community," he said.

"If you don't involve the community this place dies. They don't know and can be pretty shy about coming up to the marae and don't know how to do it, but it's just one foot after the other."

Kaumatua Ken Kuiti at the Kikopiri Marae in Ohau.
Kaumatua Ken Kuiti at the Kikopiri Marae in Ohau.

Kuiti said the facilities on Muhunoa West Road in Ōhau, which also included a large building beside the marae with catering facilities, could and should be used by the public for a range of community meetings or activities.

That included school visits that would provide a space for learning tikanga Māori and te reo, and also marae-based protocols.

It could be used as a base for the Ōhau community in a Civil Defence emergency, or for community-based meetings, for which there would be a small koha to go towards costs, like power.

Facilities could be used with prior arrangement with marae trustees, although whānau would always retain preference for tangi and unveiling's, he said.

Kuiti said the trust had worked hard under chairman Shane Royal to make progress.

Horowhenua District Council and local business Bagrie Contractors were hugely supportive of the project, as was the neighbouring property owner Nathan Murray, he said.

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Local woman Laureen Nation-Plimmer was one of many locals hugely supportive of the idea and was keen to be involved and like the sound of Kuiti's idea of a possible friends of the marae group.

She had lived four houses down from the marae for 40 years and had only visited once previously.

"I think it's great for the whole community. Te reo wasn't taught when I was at school and I don't know protocols," she said.

Planned improvements had already begun. A large carpark was currently under construction and iwi land adjacent to the pā would be developed as an orchard.

Photograph outside the Kikopiri Marae in Ohau taken in1908 by Thomas Pringle, from the National Library. ID: PA1-f-179-77-4
Photograph outside the Kikopiri Marae in Ohau taken in1908 by Thomas Pringle, from the National Library. ID: PA1-f-179-77-4

Kikopiri marae is located near Lake Papaitonga, about 6km southwest of Levin, off State Highway 1.