Today heralded the touch rugby segment of a fundraising effort by the people of Te Uri o Hikihiki in Ngāti Wai in support of the rebuild of the Mokau Marae complex after it was gutted by fire.
Marae chair Hepi Haika says they're ecstatic with the turnout, "This gathering is focussed on fundraising in order to secure Government assistance to complete the rebuild of our marae complex."
The event sees the return of family including young sports stars and veterans from the other side of the world in support of the project.
11 year old Marley Leuleuai has already secured a contract with a famous English football club, "I play football, well its called soccer here and I play for Manchester City and I'm loving it there yeah."
Meanwhile his father Kylie continues coaching rugby league in England after a stellar career, "I've been away from New Zealand for twenty years. Played ten years in Australia in the NRL and I've been ten years over in the UK England Super League playing for Leeds Rhinos. I haven't been back as much as I can since being in England it’s such a long way away been back about 3 times in ten years. And every time we come back I could easily move back tomorrow it’s such a beautiful place."
The festive season fundraising effort began in Whangarei last week with basketball and netball. The marae committee say the infrastructure for the rebuild at a cost of one million dollars has been secured with a total budget of 2.5 million dollars to complete the marae complex.
Clive Stone says, "Our target now is about 500,000 to complete it. We're around about 400,000 so we've got about another hundred thousand to raise and I think after the events that we've just had in the last few days it may push us close to that mark. But we're just so pleased everyone has got in an supported us."
Meanwhile marae chair Hepi Haika was thankful for the support, "I'd like to thank all our relatives for the awesome turnout in support today as you can see. And we can only but thank them all for their continued support today."