Two Whanganui marae are making detailed plans for improvement and hoping to access funding through the new Oranga Marae pathway.

Te Ao Hou Marae chairman Geoff Hipango outlined aspirations to interested people on June 9.

Government's Oranga Marae initiative was launched in May last year, and replaced the Lottery Marae Heritage Facilities Fund. It has many requirements before funding is granted. Any development is likely to happen in stages.

"For us it's not about getting bigger, to house more people. It's really about how can we enhance what we already have here and make the experience of people staying here more pleasurable. It's to manaaki," Hipango said.

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Te Ao Hou's plan includes a roofed extension with drop down walls for its wharepuni. Used in tangihanga, the extension would keep families comfortable and reduce the expense of putting up a tent.

Improvements to the kitchen and a dining extension across a veranda facing the Whanganui River are another high priority, as are showers and toilets suitable for disabled people.

Te Ao Hou Marae, in Whanganui's Somme Pde, is near the site of the earlier Te Ao Marama Marae on a river flat. Photo / Bevan Conley.
Te Ao Hou Marae, in Whanganui's Somme Pde, is near the site of the earlier Te Ao Marama Marae on a river flat. Photo / Bevan Conley.

The marae would also like to add three drop-in cabins for more comfortable overnight stays, and roofed storage on an existing concrete pad. New building could also include a one-bedroom unit for someone to live in - as Hipango has done for the past two years.

"The unit comes with a duty. There's no such thing as squatting here," he said.

The committee wants the marae to be environmentally friendly too. Solar panels were added in January, to provide electricity. Horizons Regional Council is providing 700 native trees, to begin a project revegetating the river bank, and a "food forest" is planned for later.

Long term, the marae would like to again host music festivals and regattas, and a slipway to the river is in the plan. The place has been busy for in the past two years, hosting universities studying the river's new status, and providing a base for river tourism operators to brief beginner canoeists.

Putiki Marae is also embarked on the Oranga Marae journey, with the aim of achieving full compliance, chairman Hone Tamehana said. The process has been "horrendous" but it will meet a November deadline for applications.

A key focus for Putiki is an extended and improved kitchen and dining area, in the historic 1919 Aotea Hall, built in honour of Māori Battalion soldiers returning after World War I.

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Any extension will have to be carefully done, to preserve the hall's original features.

"We have done our homework and met the criteria, right through to geotech and architectural designs and reports."

Putiki Marae and Te Rūnanga o Tupoho both support the Te Ao Hou plan, and Te Ao Hou will have to take up the flow of bookings while work is being done at Putiki.

There are bookings for Putiki pretty much every week, Tamehana said, and all hosting is done by volunteers.