Iwi fundraiser to help Mokau Marae rise from the ashes

By Dean Nathan

A sports event aimed at fundraising for the rebuild of Mokau Marae after it burnt down three years ago kicked off today. The families of Te Uri Hikihiki in Whangaruru open the event with a basketball match.

It’s the gathering of the respective families of Te Uri o Hikihiki of Mokau of Whangaruru.

Kuia Meri Tautahi Barber says, “It’s a day to support and children grandchildren families and relatives of the Hepi, Haika, Hetaraka and Henare families. We are all one family, starting with the Piripi and Pitapita families.”

Carmen Hetaraka says, “In sport, there’s always keen competition amongst the respective families and that’s how Whangaruru is and we support it.  For me and other elders, it’s about playing with our grandchildren.  And my team if full of my grandchildren playing alongside me.”

Three years have passed since the meeting house at Mokau marae was lost in an accidental fire.

“We were in Hamilton when we saw it online and were left totally bereft.  It was like our ancestors were burning in that fire and it was a very sad thing to see on Facebook,” says Barber.

A total of sixteen teams have registered for today’s event with some travelling long distances to support the fundraising of a total of just over two million dollars for a brand new marae complex.

Hikihiki descendant Charlie Hare Hepi, “Yes, from Brisbane and Melbourne and there’s quite a lot of other whānau that come from Australia too and they'll be playing netball after this basketball. We've got netball tomorrow and then we've got a touch tournament out at Oakura.  And there’s a lot of people coming from Australia for that.”

“It’s about leading our children and our young people to strongly support the fundraising efforts and for us also to dig our hands deep into our own pockets for the much need funds,” says Barber.

The rebuild of the Mokau Marae complex is already at stage two with a further five hundred thousand dollars fundraising needed for completion.

“At present, most people say, ‘what’s the most important thing in the world? tis man.’ It’s not money but all our families are getting behind the fundraising effort to support our marae at home in Whangaruru in Mokau.  That's where it’s at,” says Barber.

“I'll be very happy if the new marae is built speedily because I'm planning my 21st birthday celebration there and that’s great!” says Elliot Heremaia.

Tomorrow this event move to the netball courts.