Rangiwaho Marae in Te Tairāwhiti has installed compost toilets in a new ablution block with showers, with the marae powered by solar power.
Kay Robin, speaking on behalf of Rangiwaho Marae, says, “We're sustainable we're off the grid, we don't want to whakaparu te whenua (pollute the earth), we're para-kore, we're non-chemicals, biodegradable. We just want it to be long term for our mokopuna mō āpōpō (descendants to come).”
The new marae ablution block features five composting toilets, using an Australian design.
“This building has our composting toilets, similar to the old long-drops used by families in earlier times, but the difference is that they're enclosed," Robin says.
An aspect not commonly seen at marae around the country is that they're gender fluid or unisex.
“We didn't see the point of separating. It seemed like a colonised whakaaro really although some of our nannies were hesitant about it. We just said to them, 'Aunty, you don't have a man's and a ladies' toilet in your home,' this is āhua rite ki te kāenga.”
The funding for the ablution block was sourced from Te Puni Kōkiri's Oranga Marae fund, with a $350,000 price tag, bringing an old-school idea into modern-day technology.
“Our architects are Architects 44, brilliant guys. They've worked with us since 2012, with our wharenui, our wharekai, me tēnei whare (and this building) so we have a brilliant relationship with these guys.”
There is a separate toilet on ground level for the elderly and the disabled.
“It was about easy access so they don't have to climb the stairs because, with composting toilets you have to have a drop, it's a beautiful toilet, it's comfortable, it's consistent with what they know.”
People perish but the marae and the land remain.