Iwi define national park's boundaries
The boundaries of New Zealand's oldest national park are being marked with pou whenua in what is being described as an historic moment for Maoridom.
The Tongariro National Park in the Central North Island, was given to the people of New Zealand in 1887 by then paramount Ngati Tuwharetoa chief Te Heuheu Tukino IV.
Soon the park will feature two pou whenua (carved land posts) at each of its five entrances and two at the entrance to Whakapapa Village.
A cultural hub featuring carvers and other artists was officially opened by paramount Ngati Tuwharetoa chief Sir Tumu Te Heuheu opposite the Chateau Tongariro last Friday. The hub will be a place for visitors to learn and hear about the significance of the area while also offering them the chance to buy locally made art pieces.
The move follows over 20 years of planning by Whakapapa Village's Shane Isherwood who, upon seeing the lack of respect some visitors show for the area, knew something had to be done.
"I have lived in the Whakapapa Ski Field for nearly 30 years and coming to work everyday I see rubbish everywhere and it really annoyed me. I have picked it up the best I could but I was thinking to myself if people only knew where they were in this sacred area," he said.
"It was the first world heritage park to be given a dual status, so it is a world heritage and cultural park but we have had no cultural identifier so this is the beginning of the culture that will start happening in the park."
Isherwood said his son Hayz and one other carver, both of whom were trained at Te Puia in Rotorua, will be working on the pou and others will be brought in as needed.
"A couple of years ago when the chief sent these guys away to learn how to carve I kicked the idea off to him that these boys could do these pou depicting the boundaries of the Tongariro National Park and he loved it," he said.
"We know regional areas when we are driving along but we don't know iwi boundaries which is important to Maori because when we go into someone else's area we can be mindful and respectful of their traditions."
"I said it is a small step but the chief said for Maoridom it is a giant step and hopefully now every other iwi in the country will define their boundary. This is an historic moment for Maoridom," he said.
He said other national park stakeholders such as the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Transit New Zealand were fully supportive.
"It's started to snowball and everyone is buying into the idea and loves the whole concept of it," he said.
Hayz said the pou will be made from mixed media such as native wood, stone, and steel to withstand the area's harsh conditions.
"The stories they will tell will be to do with the landmarks, such as volcanic and geothermal activity," he said.
"Because the park belongs to everyone we didn't want to just have our ancestors up there," Shane added.
"Once they are in place there will be signs explaining their stories, which will become familiar with people, and having two pou side by side will allow them to know they have arrived."