Nga Mokai Marae DIY
28 April- 4 May 2009, Karioi

Hundreds of people were involved last week (28 April- 4 May) in the restoration of Nga Mokai marae near Karioi. Dozens of people pitched in to help the descendants of Hakaraia Te Ngaingai, the marae's founder, upgrade the marae buildings and landscape its grounds.
These included members of the Waho family from Brisbane who were constructing wooden decking to link the marae buidings. Wayne Waho had been brought up near Nga Mokai in the 1950s, and in 1988 he had gone to Brisbane to work as a builder. Now his son Lindsay runs a big construction firm there, Orb Projects. "Try spelling Orb backwards," grinned Wayne. This week they were back at the marae where Wayne's parents Lena and Eddie Waho were buried.

Out at the front of the marae, James Peeti was leading members of his family in building a new ponga fence, while the Tinirau family was sanding down the wall of the dining hall to prepare it for painting and the Menehira family were helping with the landscaping. Other descendants of old Hakaraia were there too, from the Albert, Pekamu, Poutahi, Robinson, Matene, Waide and McLeod families.

The work gathered momentum as others arrived, groups from other marae and from big organisations, as well as individuals. Brittons Housemovers lifted Whakarongo, the old meeting house, and repiled it. Two teachers from Onslow College, Josh Hema and Kirsty Dunn, turned up with some students to help with painting and landscaping. They were hosted by the marae a couple of years ago and wanted to reciprocate their hospitality.

DoC's Visitor Assets crew came from Whakapapa to tackle an acre of gorse that blocked access to the river, and then they removed the willows that were blocking the river itself. Little Kiwi Rogan turned up after school and joined in digging a ditch. There were helpers from other marae, Maungarongo, Mangamingi and neighbouring Tirorangi, where the ringawera were preparing meals and many of the workers were bedded down.
Hikoi and Whare Te Riaki came over from Tirorangi marae to create and hang a their creative manuka gate. Neighbouring farmers were giving a hand too, the Deadmans, Donalds, Berrys and Motts. Jeremey Mott was at the controls of a big digger lifting ornamental boulders into place. Ngati Rangi Elders were there too; John and Georgina Maihi, Raana Mareikura, Hure and Reo Rapana, as well as Boy Cribb from Ngati Uenuku.
Lieutenant Ellen Ford arrived from Linton with 14 Army carpenters from 25 Engineer Support Squadron. The soldiers quickly stripped away the old boards (surprisingly not rotted!) and rusting roofing iron on the historic old meeting house. They filled the spaces in the exposed framework with pink batts, then covered the building with new roofing iron and wall cladding. An entire new porch was built on the front. Soldiers and whanau worked together pouring concrete paths in front of the building.
There was a video camera set up on a tripod in the middle of all this activity, taking time-lapse photos for the "Marae DIY" TV show. Camera crews toted three other cameras all over the site under the direction of the remarkable Kara Paewai, who is the new producer for the show, this project being the sixth and final of this series.
Marae DIY has filmed 44 of these marae make-overs for Maori TV. The cameras were often on a big bloke who looked like Pine-Tree Meads. David Clayton Greene was Marae DIY's landscaping expert. There was a sad old longdrop toilet overlooking the river, and David organised a succession of people to dig up the soil around it, and then place boulders, native shrubs and some rustic farm machinery to produce an interesting feature.
Nga Mokai co-ordinator Toni Waho was everywhere, keeping the work running smoothly. But he also had time to stop and talk to youngsters who had come back from the big smoke to their own special marae for the first time. "Hakaraia Te Ngaingai was killed at the Battle of Motua Island in 1864. He left two sons and a daughter. You're a Pekamu, so you would be descended from Hakaraia's son Haami Te Riaki, and Haami's daughter Te Turi Ngahoari..."
Old buildings were refurbished, grounds were landscaped and a TV show was made. But more importantly, links with the past and with others were created, often in unexpected ways, as they were for Steve Ward, a engineer from Mighty River Power, a major sponsor of the refurbishing project. He was sleeping at Tirorangi. "I've never stayed on a marae before," he confided. "It's great: really different from a motel. They even had prayers before dinner, and they sang songs to us."

Not only was a small marae given a make-over, a large community was strengthened as well.