A Maori academic says his research suggests the role of marae is dying out because they are no longer a primary focus for many tangata whenua.
Otago University professor of Maori studies Paora Tapsell says the finding comes from running online resource service Maorimaps.
The web page aims to list details of up to 900 marae to help young urban Maori reconnect with their marae.
So far, information has been collected on just over 500 marae.
Mr Tapsell says Maori elders believed that marae were the centre of the universe - a place to belong.
He says colonisation disrupted that philosophy and meant families moved away from their home grounds for work and as a consequence the concept of marae has lost its sense of purpose.
Mr Tapsell says that also creates problems in maintaining Maori protocols such as passing on history, genealogy and the art of delivering speeches.