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A crowd of 1500 people is expected to witness the long-awaited opening of one of New Zealand's remotest marae, overlooking the Tasman Sea.

Tiny Bruce Bay, a handful of houses and a hall in South Westland, is usually home to 10 people.

But tomorrow that number will swell for the opening of the marae, built by members of Te Runanga o Makaawhio.

The marae, which has been built on land that was swamp until 2003, has been three years in the planning but talked about for generations.

Makaawhio, a subtribe of Ngai Tahu, has until now had to hold funerals, meetings and traditional celebrations further away.

Prime Minister Helen Clark will open the marae, named Te Tauraka Waka a Maui after the legendary Polynesian explorer, who is said to have landed at Bruce Bay.

More than 60 carvings will be unveiled at the opening, which will also be attended by Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia and National Party Maori affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee, along with many former bay residents.