Finally getting to see Horouta Marae's makeover
When Horouta marae opens its meeting house after three years of renovation, its manager will be lining up with everybody else to catch a first glimpse.
Despite masterminding the Aotea marae's renovation, as a woman, Pania Houkamau-Ngaheu is not allowed to see how work is progressing inside the main building.
"I won't know how it's going to look until I walk in on the day," she said.
Horouta ki Poneke Marae in Whitford Brown Ave will throw open its doors to the public on December 7, when its wharenui becomes operational, 20 years after being built.
Maori king Tuheitia Paki will attend the opening, as will Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia.
Mrs Houkamau-Ngaheu said weekend-long celebrations would be officiated by bishop Muru Walters, and would include lunch for 2000 people and an afternoon of dance performances, from kapa haka to crumping.
Horouta's meeting house has sat empty for two decades, with the marae community lacking the ability to properly decorate and bless it.
That changed three years ago, when Mrs Houkamau-Ngaheu was chosen as marae manager.
Since then she has devoted every spare moment to revamping the wharenui and wharekai: painting, sanding floorboards and planting trees alongside thousands of other long-overdue tasks.
"I've been micromanaging," she said.
"What we do today can make all the difference for tomorrow.
"We're working now for the people who are here today and the generations who are being born today and will continue all the beautiful work that's coming to fruition now."
The renovation has been done for next to no money: marae members have bartered materials and donated skills and time to get the work done.
"It's all zero budget. It's been truly, truly amazing," Mrs Houkamau-Ngaheu said.
The jewel in the crown of Horouta's transformation will be the interior of the wharenui.
Carvings have been made and painted, tukutuku panels are being designed, and modern, colourful painted ceiling panels are almost ready to be installed.
Mrs Houkamau-Ngaheu is able to see the decorations being made, but has to imagine how they will look together in the wharenui.
"Historically men plan it, men direct how it's going to be, right through to the colours.
"They broke with tradition by handing it over to me," she said.
"Everybody has added to the picture of what this marae could look like."
Despite her huge efforts to make her marae a cultural centrepiece and classroom for Porirua, Mrs Houkamau-Ngaheu will take a modest role in the December 7 celebration - manning the toilets.
"It doesn't matter where you go, everybody will be important," she said.