A hapu-led initiative using Provincial Growth Fund money to get whānau into jobs following the Covid-19 pandemic has seen the renovation of a marae and pre-trade qualifications for the workers.
Instead of hiring contractors, upgrades to Kutarere Marae's fences, roofs, and manuhiri shelter as well as the demolition of an old ablution block were completed by 11 Covid-19 affected whānau members.
Marae trustee and project overseer Brendon Smith said marae trustees had come up with a strategic vision three years ago for the marae to be sustainably utilised and this initiative, developing both people and the marae, fitted perfectly with that vision.
"This was a big team effort by whānau, and they learned a range of construction skills as well as gaining recognised qualifications," he said.
Last week, graduates Kalin Mareroa, Te-Upoko-o-Raumoa Heremia, Pohatu Onekawa, Barlow Onekawa, Tekaumatarere Heremia and Kaden Richards, represented by his grandmother Bari Mio, were honoured with an awards ceremony at the marae.
"I won't say it has been easy, it hasn't been," Smith said.
"But growth comes from being challenged and we have shown what we can do when we put our minds to it."
As well as employing and training whānau, the marae upgrade project has opened a career pathway. Already the team is in discussion with Generation Homes about having the men work on a planned subdivision in Ōpōtiki.
The mens' work at the marae was checked by Supreme Group to ensure it was to code and Smith said he appreciated the company trusting the whānau to do the mahi.
The team is also grateful to the Whakaatu Whanaunga Trust for providing transport to get whanau to training courses in Kawerau every Friday.
"This has unlocked our whānau's potential and will sustain our marae into the future," he said.
Graduate Kalin Mareroa told those gathered to celebrate the group's success that he was "grateful and thankful" for the opportunity.
Project manager John Williams said everyone was incredibly proud of the kaimahi and they had come so far from when they put the first post in.
"Some things were not quite right, and some things needed to be done again, but it is by mistakes that we learn and, at the end, the boys had all learnt some good skills to the point that other employers are now looking at them," he said.
"They should be very proud of themselves."
Williams said the mahi brought mana both to the marae and to the kaimahi and he looked forward to the day the graduates visited with their grandchildren and could say, "I built that".