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Tapu Te Ranga marae fire damage: Whānau plan for new chapter

Meriana Johnsen, Journalist

The whānau from Tapu Te Ranga Marae have begun planning to build a new shared living space or papakāinga where their marae once stood.

The charred remains of Tapu Te Ranga Marae after a fire broke out over the weekend. Photo: RNZ / Meriana Johnsen

The investigation into the fire which destroyed the Island Bay marae continues, but firefighters say it's not suspicious and they are looking into whether a smoke alarm worked.

Despite the building having been labelled "a death trap" by the council in 2016 it passed a fire audit in April this year and was given a Warrant of Fitness.

The whānau have been meeting with Wellington City Council, and Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta, about the future of Tapu Te Ranga.

A family spokesperson Gabrielle Tupou said the fire had pushed forward their plans to rebuild the marae, and a papakāinga on the site.

"We've been talking about that for some time and certainly this is an opportunity now as we embark on a new chapter of Tapu Te Ranga Marae enables us to consider the whole whenua, and not just the marae complex."

The single whare left standing, Tane Whaiora, sustained some damage and cannot be used, but the council has allowed them to keep it.

Mr Tupou said he was just grateful they could keep it as a memory of what once was.

"The council allowed the whānau to retain the whare, Tane Whaiora, because that's the first whare of Tapu Te Ranga Marae and all our mauri and kawa, it's all tied up within that whare."

Four people lived on the main marae itself and another group of about 10 people lived in a separate building on the marae grounds, by the whare.

The council has offered emergency housing to the family and others staying at the marae.

The unique main marae building, dubbed the Māori Hogwarts, had been added onto throughout its 45-year history, leading the council to dub it "a death trap" in 2016 because many parts of the building were deemed unsafe.

The council decided the upper levels would be off bounds but were satisfied the lower levels were safe to use.

Council spokesperson Richard MacLean said it was an unusual situation for parts of a building to be given a Warrant of Fitness.

"We don't want to completely destroy the marae's ability to host visitors, so in other words if we deem part of the building to be perfectly okay for occupation, then so be it, they can use it."

Mr MacLean said the marae would need to repair their remaining whare and bring it up to standard if they wanted to use it again.

Fire and Emergency expect to complete their investigations in the next couple of days.


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