Marae development ‘tremendous’ project

Finance Minister Grant Robertson (left) is welcomed to Murihiku Marae by Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene last Thursday.

THE redevelopment of an Invercargill marae has been described by Finance Minister Grant Robertson as a “unique project” and “probably one of the largest investments” in a marae.

Mr Robertson visited Invercargill last week, where he took part in the Murihiku Marae upgrade presentation.

The upgrade will include a community facility, social housing, a community medical hub and cultural space.

The Government announced $9 million funding towards the $13.5 million project in January.

Speaking to the Southland Express last week, Mr Robertson said it was “probably one of the largest investments from a marae perspective around New Zealand”.

“I think it is a tremendous project. It is that kind of integrated development where you’ve got a community facility, you’re going to have kohanga reo being updated, you’re going to have papakainga [public] housing, so that’s why we funded it.”

About 33 jobs would be created during the construction phase and eight new permanent jobs once the project was complete.

“It was a project that we thought the time had come [for] and it will generate a lot of jobs in construction, and then there will be work generated once the facility is up and running, so it is quite unique,” he said.

Architect Murali Bhaskar, who designed the project, said the inspiration came from a tohora (whale). Following the Government’s ideals, he tried to take a carbon-zero approach.

Solar panels, stormwater retention and enhanced natural light and ventilation would play a big part in the project.

“There is no fossil fuels; there is no use for gas or anything – almost everything is electric.”

About four units would be built in the first stage of the housing project, which could “house a couple of people in each one”, Mr Bhaskar said.

After the first units were completed, space would be available for many more, he said.

Construction would start at the end of the year and the project was expected to be completed by the end of next year.

After the launch of the project, Mr Robertson took part in a post-Budget briefing organised by the Otago Southland Employers’ Association.

Attendees spoke of struggles caused by border closures and restrictions on migrant workers.

Mr Robertson said immigration was one Government’s biggest challenges.

He believed now was the best time to hire someone from overseas since the Covid-19 outbreak began in New Zealand.

“If you are in a business and you need someone to come in, now is the time. There is space in our managed isolation facilities at the moment.

“There may not be that space towards the end of the year.”

Mr Robertson talked about the funding allocated in the Budget for the “just transition” programme, brought about by the announcement the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter would close in 2024.

The increased budget, of about $14 million, was about expanding Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment services in Southland.

“It is money to run the programme. From that you then get the ideas which would then be funded as projects. So, for example, if we were to push for an aquaculture project, there would be additional funding to what was in the Budget.”