Tapu Te Ranga Marae to be rebuilt after fire

Investigators believe a sparking brazier may be behind a blaze which destroyed Wellington's Tapu Te Ranga Marae yesterday.

Little remains of the towering wooden structure in Island Bay, but the marae's story is far from over.

"I suppose it's like a death of a loved one for us," spokesperson Gabriel Tupou said.

"It's really quite humbling to see this all here."

In the 1970s Bruce Stewart came here with $25 in his pocket and built a multi storey urban marae.

"He'd always say 'this is my Mum'," Tupou said. "In fact he said 'if it burns, I'm going down with the shop'."

Stewart's tamariki and mokopuna grew up here, and Tupou calls the marae his kuia or grandmother.

"His dream was to build a tūrangawaewae for those on the fringes of society," he said. "Yes, we will rebuild."

The community this place was built for is now rallying, with tens of thousands of dollars already raised for its restoration.

"People have been turning up on our doorstep in tears," Tupou said. "I've received phone calls from people, strangers even, who are just absolutely devastated."

The fire service has now handed the marae back its whanau, who are looking to what can replace this special place.


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