The premises occupied by Kōkiri Marae at 7-9 Barnes Street, Seaview was built as a U.S Army store in the 1940's.
The urgency of establishing Kōkiri centres resulted from creation of the Tū Tangata policy which identified that Māori customs and traditions were in very real danger of becoming extinct through lack of concerted development amongst an increasing Māori population who were entrenched in a non Māori social and economic environment.
There needed to be national initiatives to decrease the number of Māori mortality rate due to ill health, increasing numbers of Māori leaving school with little or no qualifications and opportunities, unemployment and lack of cultural knowledge and direction. Central to this was the local gangs, who assisted in shaping the direction of Kōkiri, its services and its people.
The need to provide tangihanga services significantly changed the role and functions of the centre, as Kōkiri took on the traditional role of an urban marae, catering for whānau, hapu and all iwi, Kōkiri evolved from a Kōkiri Centre to become Kōkiri Marae.
Kōkiri Marae Seaview was the first Kōkiri Centre, a community based facility to address and confront these issues by conducting employment based training schemes in a Māori environment. The schemes introduced Māori Culture programmes such as Te Reo, Carving, Weaving, Whānaungatanga and Whakapapa.
Kōkiri Marae moved very quickly from providing employment programs to not only taking on the customary role of a marae but to an organisation that now provides a holistic range of services covering the operation of Education, Te Kōhanga Reo, Social and Health Services.
As well as offering front line services, Kōkiri Marae has been influential in developing public policy through its involvement in national research initiatives submissions to the government. Membership on national advisory bodies and working parties.
Kōkiri Marae is known for establishing and piloting new initiatives or supporting in the development which now a autonomous of the Marae or are still affiliated. Such as the piloting of Te Ataarangi, Tū Tangata and the establishment of the Kōkiri Marae Māori Women's Refuge, started with Kōkiri Marae and as the name suggests, still remains under its umbrella. A major role in establishing and supporting the development of other organisations such as Tu Kotahi Māori Asthma Society, Naku Enei Tamariki (maori section), Mana Wahine, Te Ara Whanui Kura Kaupapa Māori, Paparakau Multi Cultural Society and Whai Oranga o Te Iwi Health Centre.
The advent of a shifting Māori population from all parts of New Zealand and accompanied by numerous tribal affiliations, the use of the marae ensured all Māori, including Pacific Island and Tauiwi always have access.