Spectacular concrete panels depicting a Māori legend will welcome drivers when they enter the new northbound Waterview Tunnel.
The huge artworks, which tell the story of lovers Hinemairangi and Tamaireia, who escaped underground, are being installed on the left-hand side of the northbound lanes into the tunnel. The panels will be 48m long and 1.5m high.
The story they tell begins 30m outside the tunnel and finishes 18m into the tunnel. They were designed by Graham Tipene, an artist from Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, who also designed the distinctive cover for the cutter head of Alice, the tunnel boring machine.
"It's great to be able to bring to life a legend relating to Auckland's tangata whenua and the city's volcanic heritage and make it a part of something as modern as the Waterview tunnels,” says Tipene.
"The story of Hinemairangi and Tamaireia has an important historical connection with the route the Waterview Connection takes.
"It's been great to connect what's happening today at Waterview with what happened in the past.”
The legend says the couple eloped and escaped capture by travelling along the Manukau Harbour on what is now State Highway 20, under the feet of Owairaka (Mt Albert) and the Meola Reef at the southern end of the Waterview Connection.
Tipene says it was quite a challenge to translate such a tangled story into one that could be told simply enough to be carved into concrete.
"I'm really pleased with the way they've turned out – they'll make a stunning entranceway to the tunnel."