The addition of a large pou whenua on Ōtamahua/Quail Island is a welcome sight for tangata whenua, on an island with a long and rich history.
Ōtamahua is a 81 hectare pest-free island managed by the Department of Conservation in Whakaraupō / Lyttelton Harbour. The idea for the pou whenua came from Whakaraupō Carving Centre and was completed as part of a regeneration plan led by Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke around areas of cultural significance in Whakaraupō.
With the assistance of funding from the Ngāi Tahu Fund for the carving, Ngāti Wheke commissioned Whakaraupō Carving Centre to create the impressive pou. Significant logistical and engineering support was provided by DOC for the transportation and installation of the pou. Ngāti Wheke assisted DOC with part funding for the installation costs. Dulux supplied the paint used in the carving as part of its Department of Conservation partnership.
Pou whenua or land posts are used to mark territorial boundaries and areas of significance. The new pou is called ‘Te Hamo o Tū Te Rakiwhānoa’. A hamo is a multi-purpose tool used to clear debris and dig holes to plant vegetables. Tū Te Rakiwhānoa is the name of one of the tūpuna (ancestors) of Ngāti Wheke.
Ngāti Wheke Chair, Manaia Rehu says they are thrilled at the idea of being able to look out from the marae at Rāpaki and see the pou across the harbour.
“Ōtamahua has always been special to us and to be able to see the pou from Rāpaki reminds everyone of its importance and why we need to stay connected to it.”
Whakaraupō Carving Centre’s team of master carver Caine Tauwhare, Carving Centre Trustee John Lewis and apprentice carver Josh Brennan set about carving the elaborate design from one giant log. The entire process took approximately three months.
Josh, who has been carving since the age of 16 and is eighteen months into an apprenticeship at Whakaraupō Carving Centre says he has enjoyed the opportunity to be involved in such an important kaupapa. He says the story of Tū Te Rakiwhānoa is an important part of the history of the hapū.
“Tū Te Rakiwhānoa was on a quest to restore the waka Aoraki and he used his hamo to clear the debris away from the waka. A taniwha by the name of Koiro Nui Te Whenua was causing havoc amongst the people in the area. Tū Te Rakiwhānoa, with the help of his cousins – Kahukura and Marukura – used the debris cleared from their waka to bury the taniwha.”
Caine Tauwhare elaborates on the significance of the design.
“The pou is a representation of ‘te hamo’ which is the kō used by our tūpuna when he was trying to restore his waka of Aoraki. Te hamo is a digging implement used by our tupuna to plant kūmara, Canterbury being, to my knowledge, the most southern point in the motu to grow kūmara. When we talk about gardening and growing kūmara, we are talking in the realm of peacefulness.”
On the side of the pou you’ll see a piece jutting out, this is called the teka. Our ancestors would put their foot on this as they held the kō to dig a hole and plant the kūmara. The teka itself is different on each side, it represents the two whānau who helped Tū Te Rakiwhānoa to keep the taniwha in its hole underneath the island.”
The pou, which stands nearly nine metres tall and weighs 650 kilograms, was carefully transported a short distance from the Carving Centre in Lyttelton to Naval Point. From there it was airlifted across the harbour by helicopter, and carefully lowered into position at the island’s highest point, where it was fitted to a purpose-built concrete base.
Andy Thompson says DOC was very supportive of the iwi’s idea to place a pou at the highest point of Ōtamahua.
Ōtamahua/Quail Island was used by Māori as a base for mahinga kai or food gathering and farmed from the 1850s before it became a recreation reserve in the 1970s and was later used as a quarantine station for animals and people.
“While the European history of the island is marked by various buildings on the island, the pou represents the significant cultural history of the island and its importance to Ngāti Wheke.”
The presence of the pou will enrichen the experience for the approximately 16,000 people who visit Ōtamahua for recreation every year.
“The story of Tū te Raki Whanoa is a rich part of Banks Peninsula and Whakaraupō’s history. It’s important to DOC this story is shared and people have a chance to learn more about Ōtamahua. The pou helps to bring this history to life for people to enjoy and appreciate,” says Andy Thompson.
An official unveiling and blessing of the pou by Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke took place last weekend on 26 May.