The everyday running of the marae can be allocated to a marae committee, distinct from the marae trustees. Where this arrangement exists, the marae committee is the first point of contact for booking the marae and making all the arrangements for a hui. In some marae the trustees and the committee would be likely to be the same people, so it makes sense to have only one body that manages everything.
The chairperson ensures that regular meetings are called and advertised, and that any meeting is properly conducted. Everyone who attends has a right to air their views, and generally any issue is discussed until consensus is reached. If necessary, there may be a vote cast at the meeting to decide on a course of action (for example, where a number of parties have tendered for a job on the marae, and the community is divided over who should receive the contract).
The secretary’s job is vital. Duties include writing and placing advertisements in the newspaper or on the marae website, keeping the minutes of meetings, keeping the booking diary for the marae, receiving and replying to correspondence, updating the marae charter, ensuring that when new trustees are elected the relevant Māori Land Court procedures are followed and keeping all marae records.
The treasurer is responsible for making sure that proper accounts are kept for the marae. In some cases the secretary may fulfil this role as well. Where the marae can afford to do so, it is considered good practice to employ a certified accountant who, at regular meetings, provides up-to-date records of all monies received, all outgoings and any investments and liabilities, as well as an annual set of accounts for the annual general meeting.
Māori wardens are volunteers whose powers are determined by the Māori Community Development Act 1962. In 2012 Gloria Hughes, the president of the Māori Wardens’ Association, described these powers as archaic. She said the act had not kept pace with what wardens actually do in the community today, including truancy monitoring, public patrols, security, youth and court work, and patrolling on marae. In 2020 there were about 1,000 Māori wardens.
Preparing for tangihanga
When a person dies he or she is brought back to their ancestral marae. During tangihanga – or tangi – the marae may be seen at its finest. At what can be very short notice, the hau kāinga (the people who live nearby and keep the marae going) organise and carry out all the tasks necessary to prepare for the arrival of the whānau pani (the bereaved). These tasks include:
- cleaning all the buildings
- setting out mattresses and linen
- ensuring the showers and toilets are clean and have necessities such as soap and toilet paper
- turning on the water heating
- in rural areas without town water supply, making sure there is enough water in the tanks.
Meanwhile, someone buys groceries and organises meat, fish and other food. This is prepared and cooked by the team in the kitchen for the unknown number of people who will arrive, over however many days the tangi lasts.
The kaikaranga (women who call people onto the marae) and kaikōrero (men who make formal speeches on the marae) have to be contacted. Some marae also have Māori wardens on duty during the tangi. The wardens assist in many ways, including showing people where to park, helping those who are unfamiliar with marae protocol and sometimes also fulfilling the role of kaikaranga for the visitors to the marae.