The ancestral guardians of Pukekaroa have returned to Pukekawa (Auckland Domain) three years after their removal for restoration. The occasion was celebrated with a small ceremony on Saturday 24 June attended by the Office of the Kiingitanga and a number of Tainui kaumātua and Auckland Council representatives.
The carvings surround and protect a sacred tōtara tree planted on the first centenary of the Treaty of Waitangi signing in 1940 by Kiingitanga leader Princess Te Puea Herangi, the great granddaughter of Pōtatau Te Wherowhero – the first Māori King.
The site has special significance to the Kiingitanga, as it commemorates the site where Te Wherowhero once lived and the tribal relationships that were formed there between Waikato tribes, Ngāti Whātua and Ngāpuhi, during the establishment of the city.
Waitematā and Gulf Ward Councillor Mike Lee, who chairs the Auckland Domain Committee, says protecting our cultural heritage is an important concern for Aucklanders.
The oldest public park in Aotearoa
“The Auckland Domain is New Zealand’s oldest public park and has a rich history," he says.
"This is a site of extraordinary importance in the history of Tāmaki Makaurau, dedicated to the memory of the first Māori King Pōtatau Te Wherowhero – the great friend of early Auckland – who came to live in the domain as a signal of his protection of Auckland and of Ngāti Whātua.”
“Mindful of Auckland’s historic relationship with the Kiingitanga, it has been of the highest importance for Auckland Council to ensure that the palisades, associated carvings and the tōtara tree planted by Princess Te Puea Herangi are cared for in such a way that reflects the importance of this site.”
Rangi Whakaruru from the Office of the Kiingitanga says, “This piece of work is very significant to Māori and we are delighted to see this completed. The group of kaumātua and representatives sent up by King Tuheitia to officiate the unveiling ceremony have amplified this occasion across the Kiingitanga.”
The restoration, funded by Auckland Council, was completed by master Māori carver Alan Nopera. Alan, who has been carving since 1955, says the Pukekaroa carvings are similar to those found on the front of a meeting house. They represent the children of Rangi and Papa.