A $16 million marae renovation programme is drawing to a close, with a third of marae in the west of the North Island, the top of the South Island and the Chatham Islands benefiting from major upgrades.
Funded by the Provincial Growth Fund, the mass renovation project was a regional job creation scheme that enabled 64 marae in the Tai Hauāuru region to carry out capital works.
Te Puni Kōkiri Te Tai Hauāuru regional director Jessica Smith said the project allowed marae communities to complete shovel-ready work, including essential repairs, maintenance and infrastructure.
The two-year initiative generated local jobs and cadetships, Smith said. It was a lower number than forecast because smaller jobs were clustered as a strategy to create employment over a longer period.
The scheme also created new Māori enterprises and reconnected whānau back to their marae.
"It was a great opportunity for employment, bolstering businesses that already exist, enabling whānau to have new businesses, and supporting cadetships and work experience," Smith said.
"But it wasn't just about creating jobs - actually it created far more than that. Coming back to work on your marae as a contractor, businesses created as a consequence of this mahi, finding out information about your whānau, moving towns to be closer to reconnect with your marae … so many amazing stories that have come out of this particular programme.
"It was that culture, connection, being able to build businesses, all those sorts of things."
Among those to benefit were 24 marae of the Whanganui River, Rangitīkei, Taumarunui, the Waimarino and South Taranaki, which had $7.7m of work approved under the scheme.
"Some have already finished and we're hoping to have the majority completed by the end of February subject to contractors' availability, delays in materials and those kinds of things."
Smith said not all marae were able to participate in the PGF programme but a major data insights project was underway to help inform a wider marae development rollout.
"One of our focus areas is to create good data, insights and information across all of our marae so we can be more strategic and proactive in supporting marae aspirations.
"Sixty percent of our marae don't have a development plan, many don't have insurance because they can't afford it, water infrastructure is poor. Electrical infrastructure is poor in Taumarunui so how do we support them to look at alternative energy sources? In Covid times we need emergency management plans, we need defibrillator programmes.
"Knowing that across all of our marae enables us to be really strategic about how we support."
The information would be used to seek targeted support from central and local government, and create policy and investment settings to support marae.
"Our role is to support marae to fulfill their aspirations and to increase capability and capacity in any way we can. The data insights project has already gathered information from 60 percent of our marae and we're in the process of going back around again to engage with everyone."
Smith said the scale of the project meant Te Puni Kōkiri had to increase the size of its teams in Te Tai Hauāru.
"It's quite a big piece of work. For instance, in this rohe alone we have 23 marae in and around Taumarunui, 15 in Rangitīkei, 27 in Whanganui and up the river, and 11 in Ruapehu - a total of 76 in all."
Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air