Marae bounces back
Ashes were all that remained of Maori carvings and irreplaceable photographs, when Tamatea Pokai Whenua wharenui in Mangakino was deliberately set alight in 2007. Returning to the marae three years later Florence Kerr finds a new marae standing on the sho
IN 2007 Pouakani Marae was destroyed by arson. When I visited the site recently a new marae was almost finished.
Pouakani Marae Trust chairman Whitu Karauna and trustee treasurer Memory Te Whaiti guide me through the new complex.
We stop at the doors of the kaumatua whare, which will be used for kaumatua to quench their thirst and have a breather while conducting ancient rituals on the paepae.
The kaumatua whare will be adorned with the mahau, a carving which was able to be saved and restored from the fire.
‘‘A number of taonga that have been able to be restored will be put in this whare, we want to incorporate some of our old taonga,’’ Ms Te Whaiti said.
The kaumatua whare which stands next to Tamatea Pokai Whenua and is a stone’s throw away from the wharekai have all been fitted with sprinklers.
Mr Karauna said the planning and building of the whare was done with precision to detail, thanks to marae trustee and project manager Vernon Te Whaiti.
‘‘He has done a wonderful job in leading us through this project. . . we scrimped and saved where we could and designed our marae to work with our whenua by putting solar panels in to heat our water, we also plan to erect rain water barrels and put in a marae vegetable garden to nourish our whanau.’’
The build which has come in just over the $2 million mark; however, money is still needed to finish the carvings for Tamatea Pokai Whenua.
‘‘We are looking at the $200,000 mark to complete the carvings and toko toko panels as well as the installation of these taonga. That is all that is left to do. Then we can open our marae doors to the world.’’
The pou are being carved by Ngati Kahungungu tohunga whakairo Takirirangi Smith.
‘‘Our hui are about building our profile, we look at ways to make Mangakino a tourist destination, it’s about drawing people to the town and utilising our marae, by doing this the marae will pay for itself in a sense.’’
One of our drawcards is the lake and we are utilising that aspect by holding waka ama regatta; the marae can be used as accommodation, we have installed washing machines for our manuhiri and our wharekai can seat 300 so we have the facilities here to accommodate a lot of people.
‘‘We have a waka ama regatta on December 11 so we may look at doing something then.
Business opportunities are only one aspect of this well formed plan, the Pouakani whanau are looking at ways to counteract the impending funding shortage their paepae will face in a few years.
‘‘We are in discussions about holding tikanga and reo classes for our rangatahi at the marae.
Our kohanga is supported by our marae whanau as well as reo learners at school, it would be good for our rangatahi to learn about our kawa (protocols) and tikanga on our marae.’’ Mr Karauna said they will also look at improving the health of whanau.
‘‘We are thinking of setting up health programmes for our kaumatua at the marae, having a familiar setting would put a lot of our kaumatua at ease.’’
Pouakani Marae Trustees and the wider community of Mangakino have been through adversity and back but ‘‘hard work and whanau support’’ have turned negatives into positives.
Everyone in our group has gone above and beyond and it has all been worth it.
These beautiful whare are testament to our project manager Vernon and our whanau who have all pitched in where they could.’’
Those wanting to donate towards Pouakani Marae rebuild can do so by contacting Ms Te Whaiti on 07 882 8170. Keep up to date on the marae’s progress on the Pouakani Marae Facebook page.
STANDING TALL: Pouakani Marae Trust chairperson Whitu Karauna stands outside the newly built Pouakani Marae complex.
HARD WORK: Marae project manager Vernon Te Whaiti assists Desmond Stainton and Bill Luyten as they fabricate the tahuhu, the panel that runs the length of the marae ceiling.