A te ao Māori answer to Airbnb looks set to provide marae with a constant revenue stream.
A pilot programme includes 20 marae throughout the country selected to be a part of new Māori venture, Book a Marae, an online booking system similar to Airbnb.
The venture is the brainchild of businessmen Breviss Wolfgramm and Hyrum Sunnex and aims to deliver authentic cultural experiences for both domestic and international groups.
"We have provided a very easy and simplistic way for people to click and connect with marae throughout New Zealand," Wolfgramm said.
"We are marketing to small groups who want to experience exploration tourism. You could also book them out for events such as weddings and 21st birthdays."
Hapū leaders from the Whakatāne District; Pouroto Ngaropo, Stan Ratahi and Della Te Pere, see the website as a grassroots movement for hapu to take control, bring the mana back and look after their people.
By taking part, marae have access to collective purchasing, making things like mattresses more affordable. They can also make joint bids to the Government for contracts such as lunches in schools.
There is an opportunity for marae to work as civil defence pods, pop-up medical centres, and distribution centres for kai or essential products during a crisis. In "peace time" they can be rented out to school groups, sports teams or tourists looking for an authentic experience.
All options lead to more putea (funds) for marae upkeep, and jobs to keep whānau local.
Stan Ratahi, of Te Rangihouhiri marae, said he could see the benefits rolling on and on for his hapū and the wider community.
"I can see our young people being able to get jobs at home, I can see our marae becoming the real hub of the community," he said.
"Too often we are stopped by bureaucracy, but what's good for us is good for the entire community and we can do it together."
Te Pere, of Te Mapou Marae, said she immediately saw the benefits Book a Marae could bring.
"We are on the verge of renovating our wharekai, and this could bring the support and funds we need to do that.
"I am thrilled about the whole thing. This could economically uplift our people, keep your young ones home. We can develop and move forward together."
Te Pere said economic resilience will empower the people and enable hapū to take control of their futures.
Pouroto Ngaropo of Iramoko Marae said he believed the areas surrounding the Rangitaiki River are some of the most beautiful in the country, and have untapped potential in terms of tourism.
He said all marae in the area could offer tourists, schools, and sports groups an authentic experience rather than the "fake" one they might experience at more commercialised locations.
"We have beautiful rivers, we have the Tarawera Falls, we have our coastline," he said.
"If people want a real experience, if they want down-to-earth hosts, to be connected to the whenua and our cultural and spiritual beliefs, and to have the experience of a lifetime, they can have it here."
Ngaropo said the hapū in the area could offer tourists experiences such as fishing, kayaking, hunting, hiking, cycling, hāngī, kapa haka and cultural education.
"If we are successful we can provide jobs for our rangatahi, so they don't have to move away. We could live around the pā like we used to," he said.
"This is an untapped economy, and we're at the head of it."
Ngaropo said opening marae up could also bring Māori and Pākehā closer together.
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