First established in mid 2006, the Mahara project started as collaborative venture funded by New Zealand's Tertiary Education Commission's e-learning Collaborative Development Fund (eCDF) which was a contestable funding pool. Massey University led the project with collaborative partners, Auckland University of Technology, The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, and Victoria University of Wellington. Each organisation had representation on the project Steering Group and this team included Richard Wyles from Flexible Learning Network who was leading aligned projects with Moodle on behalf of an Open Polytechnic led consortium, and further open source work with the Fedora repository system.
In July 2007, Flexible Learning and Catalyst IT started collectively managing and supporting the project with their own time and resources plus further support from New Zealand’s Ministry of Education for a national ePortfolio service for schools (see MyPortfolio). A significant redevelopment of the views framework was made possible from Mellon Foundation funds from the Open Polytechnic’s winning a 2007 Mellon Award for Technology Collaboration.
This period saw Mahara mature to version 1.0 production release in mid-2008. From there the project has benefited from a widening pool of contributors - a good sign of a successful open source community.
Nigel McNie was lead developer since the beginning of the project in 2006 and continued to stay in that position until the end of 2009. Since then, Richard Mansfield stepped in.