A marae’s role as a focal point for the community took on added meaning at Martinborough’s Hau Ariki Marae in May with hundreds of volunteers lending a hand to support a major makeover.

The four-day working bee was part of a Marae DIY episode which will screen later this year.

Hau Ariki Marae spokesperson Kevin Haunui says the marae is an important communal hub in the South Wairarapa township and seeing so many people supporting the project is very heartening.

“It’s been a great opportunity for people to reconnect with the marae as well as establish new connections,” Mr Haunui says.

The project would not have been possible without considerable funding and sponsorship from the local community, Mr Haunui says. Trust House contributed to more than half of the $45,000 funding target with a grant of $24,000. Sponsorship of materials and labour provided from both local and national businesses topped nearly $50,000.

Trust House Foundation deputy chair Mena Antonio says it was great to able to support such a worthwhile project.

Mr Haunui says one of the unusual aspects of the Hau Ariki Marae is that it is a “community marae”.

“It was set up by both Maori here (in Martinborough) and supported by Iwi and the local community. Its foundations are really bi-cultural and again it is good for us to raise that with the community to remind us of the marae’s significance,” he says.

“Martinborough has quite a sizeable Maori population, though the nature of much of their work is transient, so keeping our people together is the challenge, but I think that we are doing alright.”

The marae is really important as it is a place where they can see Maori custom taking place that comes to the forefront more than other times, he says.

The work being carried out includes renovating and improving parts of existing buildings and also the addition of new features such as gardens and fences.

The long-running Maree DIY programme brings together tribes and communities around New Zealand to rebuild and restore their respective marae. When the Hau Ariki Marae project is screened – on TV3 and Maori Television – it will be the 100th episode.

A feature of the episode will be interviews with three kuia (female elders) who will reflect on their experiences of Hau Ariki. Each kuia represents many facets of significance of Hau Ariki Marae.

Hau Ariki Marae spokesperson Kevin Haunui says the DIY-project has been a great opportunity for people to reconnect with the marae.

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