The old cottage on the grounds of Pehiaweri Marae, unlike the old place in the famous Hone Tuwhare poem of that name, is not about to make its final curtsy.
It may have been long boarded up, but it has never been abandoned.
Now, thanks to funding secured by the marae committee and free labour supplied by members of the Tikipunga High School Building Academy, the one-time manse (former minister's home) is being lovingly restored.
One room is being prepared as a storage space for taonga and there are plans for a new shower, toilet and kitchen and surrounding decks.
Tikipunga Building Academy director Sam McGregor and his team of seven students have been working on the project since the start of term 3.
Work has included removing rotten timber from the framing and cladding and replacing it with new treated timber, replacing parts of the kauri floor and adding new wooden joinery.
It is, according to Sam, an ideal project for teaching students about renovation.
"As well as learning standard techniques like measuring and cutting timber, the boys have had to learn how to make an old building structurally sound and to consider design aspects that will retain the character."
Sam is grateful to Industrial Site Services for demonstrating to the students how to put up "tube and clip" scaffolding.
For academy student Matiu Rapana the project has not just been a stepping stone in his dreams towards gaining an apprenticeship in construction, but has also been the opportunity to be part of a project that touches base with his cultural roots.
The project has not been without its dramas, with one student being bitten by a white-tailed spider.
"We killed several living in the framing," Sam says. "We now all wear gloves."
Working at the academy allows Sam to combine two areas of training and expertise - building and teaching.
"I had completed a four year physical education degree at Otago, but building at the time was booming and I found I just loved creating.
"My first real taste of it was doing builders' labouring on construction sites of multi-million dollar houses in Sydney.
"I spent a year working around Australia in shearing sheds and on farms, before coming back to work for seven years as a builder."
The move back to teaching began with a year's post graduate diploma in teaching. Sam now enjoys seeing his students gain the same "hands on" satisfaction he himself felt as a builder.
- Whangarei Leader
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