Hundreds of people gathered at Hurunui-o-Rangi Marae in Gladstone yesterday for the first-ever Waitangi Day celebration at the marae.
One of the day’s 50 organisers, Marlene Matiaha Paewai, said it was all about coming together in a fun and embracing environment.
She said they had managed to plan the event in about six weeks and that the Gladstone and Carterton communities had been “amazing to work with”.
They wanted to “breathe some life” back into the marae by opening the gates to the wider Wairarapa community.
“We want to bring that human energy back into the marae,” she said.
Hurunui-o-Rangi Marae has recently been renovated, and has built several new houses for kaumātua.
There was plenty of gratitude among the crowd for bringing Waitangi Day celebrations back to a marae. There are hopes that other marae will take turns to host visitors for the annual celebrations.
Matiaha Paewai said the event at Hurunui-o-Rangi had set the template for what other marae could do.
There has been discussion about opening the marae to everyone on other occasions, such as services for Anzac Day or Matariki.
“There’s lots of different kaupapa to bring the whanau,” Matiaha Paewai said.
It is estimated that about 500 people walked through the front gate of Hurunui-o-Rangi Marae yesterday, where there was a selection of free and paid food, with some paid stalls fundraising for things like a school trip to Samoa.
Local community service providers set up stalls to provide information and advice, with some stalls providing diabetes and blood pressure checks, and others giving information on sun safety.
The day featured a children’s zone with rides and bouncy castles. Students from Carterton schools travelled to Hurunui-o-Rangi, and some tamariki got onstage to perform.