Wairarapa is soon to become the focus of a project that will map New Zealand’s tribal marae and will eventually see an estimated 800 properties identified for preservation throughout the country.
A research team led by Dr Paul Tapsell, professor of Maori Studies at the University of Otago, includes television producer Rereata Makiha and Auckland War Museum photographer Krzysztof Pfeiffer. They will be travelling throughout the East Coast of the North Island working on the project.
Eastern and Central Community Trust has decided to donate $12,000 to the project to allow the researchers to focus on Ngati Porou and Ngati Kahungunu marae, stretching the length of the East Coast, through Hawke’s Bay to Wairarapa and Horowhenua.
Many marae in remote areas will be identified and recorded using global positioning systems.
The project does not cover urban marae or marae attached to institutions, such as universities.
Dr Tapsell set up the Te Potiki National Trust and its administrator Peter Dowling said there was a pressing need for young Maori to be reconnected with their ancestral marae.
He said anecdotal evidence suggested up to a third of tribal marae throughout the country could be in a “state of collapse” as young people shifted away.
“There is also a diminishing number of elders and lack of social communities to sustain them,” Dr Tapsell said.
Mr Dowling said through Maori Maps virtual communities can be created and descendants can be reached through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.
He said the community trust grant could not have come at a better time as researchers were aiming to complete coverage of all marae by next year but could only extend mapping when money was forthcoming.
Maori Maps had its beginnings when one of the Te Potiki Trust founders on a university business school project became lost when driving to a tangi at an isolated marae.