Matariki flags raised

17:00, Jun 25 2013
STANDING TALL: Unitec architecture students Jade Kake and Akshay Shah stand in front of the Matariki Paparewa they built with their classmates.

Matariki is being marked by a glimpse into historic Maori architecture.

Thanks to the ingenuity of a dozen architecture students, Auckland's waterfront is sporting a traditional Maori structure not seen since the 1800s.

The Matariki Paparewa project saw 26 bamboo flag masts built around the Silo Park gantry by students from Unitec's Te Hononga Maori Architecture Studio.

Student Jade Kake says the structure references a traditional paparewa teitei - paparewa meaning thin and teitei meaning tall.

"These were incredible feats of Maori architecture and engineering," she says.

"The last recorded one was in 1841 in the Bay of Islands which was 40 metres high at its highest point. And they were for hui of up to 4000 people so for the hosts they were a way of showing your manaaki and of showing your wealth."


The Matariki Paparewa was unveiled this month to coincide with Maori New Year.

The structure includes seven taller masts with flags representing the seven stars of the Matariki constellation that rises in early June marking the new year's start.

Ms Kake says as well as reviving a traditional structure it is hoped it will spark discussion of Maori issues.

"One of them is the visibility of mana whenua in the built environment. If you walk around Auckland there's really not much of it, you could be anywhere."

The students also want to raise discussion about how Auckland's iwi and sub-tribes repositioned themselves as kaitiaki, or guardians, after last year's treaty settlements saw 14 volcanic cones and four islands returned to Maori.

"So we are trying to generate some awareness and conversation about these issues and of course celebrating Matariki which is a really important time of year."

Fellow student Akshay Shah says to build the structure the class found a bamboo field that sold the material to them cheaply.

Mr Akshay says they cut bamboo into 25m lengths, shortened them further then tied them into threes for strength.

"So they are telescoped and they are bundled so it acts as one unit," he says.

"And it goes all the way up to 21m at the top of the green flag."

Ms Kake says the end result appears deceptively simple.

"People think it is just flagpoles but we spent a week in a bamboo forest and a week on site, and it was just insane. It's harder than it looks."

Traditionally a paparewa teitei would have been an A-frame but this structure is built against The Gantry as part of the fifth Auckland Triennial which runs until August 11.

Matariki Paparewa is on display until July 21.

Auckland City Harbour News