Work is under way on more than $6 million of upgrades for marae in the Whanganui and South Taranaki regions as part of a regional economic recovery drive.
Renovations at 26 marae are expected to create hundreds of jobs in the region. The programme is funded by the Provincial Growth Fund and being rolled out by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Provincial Development Unit.
A team at Te Puni Kōkiri in Whanganui is overseeing the renovations programme for 64 marae in the wider Te Tai Hauaru area. Team member Jonelle Hiroti-Kinane says the programme is a response to the impacts of Covid-19.
"It was an effort to re-deploy people into jobs and also for other areas to be boosted within the economy, around creating mahi for our local contractors and suppliers," Hiroti-Kinane said.
In the Ruapehu district, Mākaranui Marae between Raetihi and Ohakune is one of a cluster of seven local marae benefitting from $1m under the scheme. It is the first of the marae cluster to start work.
Funds allocated to the Kāhui Maunga marae cluster project are being managed by Ngāti Rangi iwi trust Ngā Waihua o Paerangi.
Project manager for the Kāhui Maunga project, Chaana Morgan, says the major refit at Mākaranui is well underway and six other marae – Raetihi, Mangamingi, Tirorangi, Maungarongo, Raketapauma and Opaea – will start work as soon as contractors and materials are available. They have until December to finish their projects.
"It's all based on supply and demand," Morgan said. "With the housing demand, suppliers and contractors are in high demand. It's just a matter of trying to get on the radar and on the calendar of those who can give that love to our marae and our people."
Mākaranui Marae trustee Puawai Moore grew up at Mākaranui papakāinga (settlement), watching her parents, aunts and uncles fundraising doggedly to provide a meeting place on land set aside by her grandfather for the hapū Ngāti Tamakana of Uenuku iwi.
"I grew up knowing that my grandfather had given this land, which he had partitioned, to the people. It was for the people of Tamakana for a marae and a meeting place.
"In 1951 mum went to court and got this set aside as a reservation. A committee was set up and a lot of fundraising was started.
"They played euchre out at Raetihi, and at the rodeo and show Dad and Uncle Gunna would leave about 4 o'clock in the morning on a horse and gig to put the hāngi down. They did that for years and years and years. It was a lot of hard work for people that had nothing."
The fundraising allowed the next generation to build a whare. In the 25 years since, it's been a gathering place for whānau and hapū connected with the land, and there are longstanding plans to develop the marae further.
Mākaranui Marae trust chair Sheryl Connell said many members of the hapū no longer live in the area but need a place to return to, as anticipated by the old people who set the land aside for that purpose.
"A lot of our whānau come back here to reconnect themselves with their whakapapa, with their whānau, with their hapū," Connell said. "It's important to have a tūrangawaewae that they're able to have a deep connection with."
She said the whare was built as the first stage of the vision for a comprehensive marae development, but further fundraising was needed to achieve that vision. The 25-year-old building had taken a battering last winter, was leaking and needed to be re-clad and made warmer. The upgrade includes plumbing, carpentry, electrical, insulation, flooring and painting work. The renovations have brought work and business to the area, Connell said.
"Our renovation has created casual work opportunities for our local people as well as utilising local businesses as our main providers and tradespeople."
She said local teenagers working on the job site were building their skills base and learning aspects of construction, including how to demolish and dismantle parts of the building. It was hoped that their experience would lead to interest in further trade training and education, and ongoing opportunities with their hapū and iwi.