At least two marae in Northland have temporarily shut their doors and more are considering closing as hapū and iwi make tough decisions in response to Covid-19.
Anahera Herbert-Graves, chief executive of Te Rūnanga-ā-Iwi o Ngāti Kahu, said two marae - Kareponia Marae and Mahimaru Marae in Awanui - had temporarily closed, meaning no tangihanga (funerals) or hui will be held at the marae.
The decision came after "a long hard discussion" and "wasn't made lightly", she said.
"Closing the marae is a way of helping our whānau and community stay safe by just discouraging them from gathering," she said.
"I know marae staying open are putting in tikanga where they've got sanitisers and handwashing facilities outside. The taumata are keeping people aware to keep separate as much as they can. Either way it is a difficult choice."
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Closing marae was just one step the iwi had taken to protect whānau. They also released a strategy last week which included information on risk identification and reduction, self-isolation, caring for kaumatua and kuia and ensuring whānau had enough to eat.
"This is what they've decided, our kaumatua, our kuia; tikanga is for the living, and for the dead, but tikanga is about doing the right thing - anything else is ego. This virus is serious. Really serious."
Herbert-Graves said in the event of a loved one dying, whānau are being encouraged to keep them at home and have the tangihanga there, and to not keep them for long.
"In a marae you've got a sleeping area, an eating area, a toilet area. It's a huge job of cleaning up."
Meanwhile, rāhui may be placed on marae in Hokianga after a hui on Wednesday attended by a range of people including Hokianga Health and Squire Funeral Services.
Maria Kire, one of the hui organisers, said the possibility of placing a four-week rāhui on six marae for hui ora (hui for the living) and hui mate (funerals) was discussed.
Urgent hui are being called this weekend by marae trustees to further discuss the matter, she said.
"I never ever thought closing down our marae would be needed but I reminded our whānau we can take comfort that the decisions we make today is for the continuity of our future."
Kire said the rāhui would allow marae trustees a breather to come up with proper protocols. If marae trustees did not agree on rāhui they would need to come up with a robust plan for managing hui.
"Whānau are really concerned but there was also a bit of an upside to this. One of my aunties said 'I get to work in my kai māra [garden] again and go back to the old days' so looking at how tūpuna preserved a lot of their kai and worked in their gardens and provided their own food and medicinal resources."