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Te Rūnanga a Rangitāne o Wairau

In Aotearoa, people, place and connection are bound by stories. Rātā Foundation has been on a journey of Māramatanga, one that brings us closer to understanding the aspirations of iwi, hapū and whānau across Waitaha, Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka-a-Māui and Wharekauri.

Te Rūnanga a Rangitāne o Wairau undertook a journey of whakawhanaungatanga in 2019, commissioning a Tauihu steel and bronze sculpture representing the prow of the Kurahaupō Waka.

The sculpture, designed and carved by tōhunga (expert) Hemi Te Peeti, was unveiled in November 2019, aligning with the Tuia 250 commemorations.

Rangitāne o Wairau General Manager Nicholas Chin says the purpose of the Tauihu project is to identify the heritage and cultural significance of the Wairau as the first area inhabited, as well as one of the first encounters between two sea-faring peoples – Māori and Pakeha.

This symbolic representation connects all who view the sculpture to the rich cultural heritage and archaeological significance of the Wairau region.

At the front of the prow stands Māui, a mythological figure representing the Rūnanga’s navigational achievements and reminding us we all live on a Pacific island, sharing a common future.

Also represented are ancestors Tūkauāe and his wives, Hinerewha, Hinepango and Ruamate, who had whakapapa connections to Wairau.

The sculpture will connect mana whenua living in the Wairau region to their heritage and history, providing a symbol of strength and resilience.

It will leave a lasting legacy for generations to come, and serve as an educational tool to connect tamariki and rangatahi to their culture so they can carry the knowledge on into the future.

The sculpture is situated at the Railway Station on the main road into Blenheim, and interpretation panels have been installed to educate locals and those who visit Wairau about the sea-faring early settlers.

Nicholas says forming a relationship with Rātā Foundation has been a vital part in ensuring their mahi speaks to the iwi’s aspirations.

“We have had a great relationship with Rātā, which started when we connected with Māori Engagement Advisor Steve Merito,” he says.

“It is critical for us to build strong relationships with organisations we work with. The funding they provide acts as a catalyst for our long-term aspirations. There are many other opportunities we would like to engage Rātā in, and this is just the beginning.”

Rātā Foundation has walked alongside Rangitāne o Wairau in their journey to unveiling the Tauihu, providing funding under its Participate focus area.

Rātā aims to enable individuals and whānau to participate in te ao Māori, and have a deeper understanding and connection to tikanga Māori.

Rātā is committed to continue working with Te Rūnanga a Rangitāne o Wairau, strengthening their connection and understanding, and sharing the future kotahitanga (together).