The whare Hinemihi, taken to England after sheltering survivors when Mt Tarawera erupted in 1886, is to be restored with the help of Jim Schuster, the great-great-grandson of the man who carved it.

Mr Schuster is a direct descendant of carver Tene Waitere, one of two carvers who carved the meeting house Hinemihi o te ao tawhito at Te Wairoa, near Lake Tarawera, in 1880.

The meeting house was one of the only buildings left at Te Wairoa village, which was almost destroyed by the Mt Tarawera eruption in 1886.

The catastrophe killed more than 150 people in the area but Mr Waitere and his wife survived the ordeal, sheltering in the house with about 50 others.

"The whare is the reason I'm here and if it hadn't been for it my family would have died," said Mr Schuster.

Governor William Hillier later bought the house for £50 and took it back to Clandon Park in Surrey as a souvenir. It has stood there since 1891 and is one of three whare in Europe - the two others being in Germany.

Hinemihi has become popular with thousands of visitors and is a beacon for Britain's Maori community, including Ngati Ranana and Te Kohanga Reo o Ranana, who want to use it as a base for cultural activities.

But time has gradually decayed the house, which now badly needs repairs.

"It was pretty flash at the time it was built because the tourist trade in the area provided our people with a lot of money," said Mr Schuster, a heritage adviser for the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

"It had weatherboards, a shingle roof instead of the traditional raupo and the carvings had gold sovereign coins in their eyes instead of paua shells."

He said Ngati Ranana and other Maori groups were keen to get involved so they could have a place to "go and recharge their batteries".

"It's a piece of home a long way from home and at least it gives them some idea of who they are," said Mr Schuster.

"We invited them to be a part of it and to be the kaitiaki [guardians] of the place but they didn't want to take it over without the blessing of Ngati Hinemihi."

Alan Gallop, of the National Trust, said fundraising efforts had started but the initiative would likely cost "many, many thousands of pounds".

"It's a very sensitive restoration which could take between three and five summers to complete," he said.

Mr Gallop said the trust was considering extending the house back to its original length and would be replacing the thatched roof which had a 'Ye olde English' feel.

Mr Schuster said he was humbled and honoured to be invited to the discussions about the house.

He said there had been calls from his people in Te Arawa to have the taonga brought home but this would happen only when the time was right.

Carvings taken from the front of the house are now owned by a collector in Paris who wants $2 million from their potential sale.

"If I could I would certainly pack it up and bring it back with me right now," he said.

"It looks mokemoke [lonely] up there just under a big oak tree, so it needs people around it.

"You feel aroha [sad] to see your tupuna [ancestor] standing here in an English country garden by herself."