Tapu te Ranga marae cleanup slow going

9:55 pm on 7 November 2019

Five months on since the iconic Wellington marae Tapu te Ranga burnt to the ground, the clean up has made slow progress.

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Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

The marae, dubbed the Māori Hogwarts, burned down on 9 June, after strong winds blew hot embers from a nearby brazier, that ignited in a storeroom.

There is still a large pile of ash and rubble where the multistoried structure once stood, but larger pieces of debris, like the bridge which connected the main building to the whare, Tane Whaiora, have all been cleared away.

The whānau have had the assistance from workers serving community sentences, who have put in a combined 2500 hours at the marae, helping to maintain the grounds, and clear away debris.

One of the workers, who didn't want to be identified, said he was happy to help out.

"I did see the building before it burned down and it was a beautiful, handcrafted building so yeah, it's a real shame that it's burnt down."

"It's just good to be able to help out and they've obviously taken a big loss so it's nice to be able to contribute to that."

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Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

He hoped this would be the last time he returned with Corrections, but wanted to continue giving back to Tapu te Ranga.

"I mean the older I get, and the longer I come here it's more of an in your face lesson about where you don't want to be in life and where you want to move towards... hopefully I don't come back, not with this crew anyway, I'd be happy to come back on my own."

Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis said it was great his ministry was playing a part in the rebuild.

"I think that the people who are coming here to work and to help and support, I think they would do it unbegrudgingly and ultimately we're going to see something else reestablished here in the years to come and everyone can be proud of that, the contribution that they've made."

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Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

Following the devastating blaze on 19 June, a family of four, who were living in an adjoining whare in the marae, were left homeless.

The family, and the ten others who were living on the marae complex, have been given social housing.

Whānau spokesperson Gabriel Tupou said building a papakāinga, or housing complex, to house the family is a priority, alongside getting the marae rebuilt.

However, he couldn't confirm any plans at this stage.

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Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

Mr Tupou was glad that the legacy of marae founder Bruce Stewart, who wanted to give disaffected young people, gang members and ex-prisoners a turangawaewae in the city, was continuing, with the involvement of those on community service.

"Tapu te Ranga Trust is still delivering on its charitable kaupapa and part of that kaupapa is to help our rangatahi and to help those who are on the fringes of society, so, as the Minister mentioned, it has come full circle and we've picked that kaupapa back up."

Mr Tupou said they were trying to secure funding from the Wellington City Council to demolish the remaining whare, and completely clear the site.

The Give a Little page set up after the marae raised over $97,000, which has been set aside for the rebuild.

Mr Tupou said those funds wouldn't be used for the clean up.

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