They say it’s the people who make a place special, and that could not be truer for those close to Mokonuiarangi Marae. With the beloved marae’s recent renovation, the Utakura Valley community experienced this more than ever as whanau from around the Pacific returned home in full force to devote their time and lend a hand.
Since its inception in 2004 AIA Marae DIY has become a touchstone that connects iwi, hapu, whanau and communities around New Zealand as they take on the ambitious task of major building and repair work in just four days. As part of the 2015 series, which kicked off on TV3 on 4 July with the Mokonuiarangi Marae renovation, the marae received a full makeover of its wharekai (dining hall). The marae has already hosted several gatherings since its transformation, which included a new roof, a new interior and exterior, new paving, decking and chairs.
With whanau flying in from Bali, Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and cities from around New Zealand, more than 300 people were on hand to help out. This is a testament to the marae and the love surrounding it, says Mokonuiarangi Marae trustee Kere Kaihe.
“There is something really special about this marae – it captures people’s hearts and has a mana all its own. We were astounded by the amount of support not only from those connected to our marae, but from our wider community. We had local builders turn up to offer their diggers and expertise, our neighbouring maraes opening their doors to feed our workers breakfast, lunch and dinner, our neighbours rolling up their sleeves and mucking in. It was incredible to see the kind-heartedness of people in its truest form.
“It was wonderful to be part of the AIA Marae DIY experience and, as our marae was built in the 1930s and very well used, it was a welcome renovation. Our marae is used regularly for tangi, unveilings and weddings, community gatherings, DOC meetings, hapu and treaty settlement meetings – it doesn’t sit idle for long. It’s great to now be able to offer this space for community use and not have to worry about waterfalls coming through the ceiling when it rains!”
The team from AIA Marae DIY producer Screentime includes many who have led previous marae renovations, including presenters Te Ori Paki and Ria Hall, landscaper David Clayton-Greene and builder Harry Anneff.
Staff from AIA New Zealand – a long-term partner of the show and primary sponsor of AIA Marae DIY since 2011 – were also on-site to lend a hand at Mokonuiarangi Marae. Over the years, more than 80 staff and their families have worked with the crew and local communities on marae renovations across the country.
AIA New Zealand CEO Natalie Cameron describes AIA Marae DIY as “a unique New Zealand initiative which is making a lasting contribution to communities.” As to the impact on staff, Cameron says, “Working on AIA Marae DIY is an experience our staff never forget. It’s inspiring and a privilege to be part of.”