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Final Te Ahi Tupua chapter comes to a close

Photos: Stephen Parker

Partners, funders and contributors marked the successful completion of Te Ahi Tupua with a karakia.

Wednesday morning was an opportunity for partners and contributors to come together to acknowledge and recognise those that had a hand in telling a significant Te Arawa story.

They spoke to the complex journey, the significance of the design and location, and the importance of storytelling to our people and place.

Te Puia CEO, Tim Cossar says it’s pleasing to see Te Ahi Tupua complete and in place to showcase the rich Māori heritage, identity, and values of Rotorua.

“Whilst it was a complicated project, with many ‘firstever’ initiatives, we are very proud of the concept which speaks to a significant Te Arawa narrative and represents the arrival of geothermal to our district. The innovation in the way it was designed and constructed provides a perfect example of the talented people we have within our rohe.”

“Designed by Te Puia | NZMACI, the sculpture is seen as a unique way to tell the stories of the region, including the origins of the geothermal features and the story of Te Arawa tohunga (high priest) Ngātoro-i-rangi, who was responsible for the safe passage of his people to Aotearoa.

“The sculpture also provides another opportunity for NZMACI to fulfil its Government mandate, to perpetuate, preserve and promote Māori arts and crafts – but in a contemporary way, with the design derived from whakairo rākau (wood carving).”

In the last month, the three remaining manaia, lighting and decorative base cover were installed.

This morning Dr Ken Kennedy and Rawiri Waru blessed the finished sculpture with a karakia to embed the mauri (life force) into Te Ahi Tupua after its significant journey from conception through to installation.

Since installation, a series of tests and inspections have been undertaken by independent engineers and technical experts. Reports and statements to Council have provided assurance that the sculpture has been built and installed correctly according to design specifications and that the carbon fibre structure exceeds design loads by 620 per cent.

“Today was an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge our partners and the organisations and people who have contributed to Te Ahi Tupua. We can also reflect on what has been a ground breaking endeavour for our community,” says Rotorua Lakes Council Operations Group Manager Jocelyn Mikaere.

“We are proud that Te Ahi Tupua was designed and made locally and that it reflects the history, culture, environment and the diversity in Rotorua. The morning’s karakia to embed the mauri in Te Ahi Tupua was an uplifting experience for everyone involved and a fitting way to honour this beautiful taonga.

Partners were also able to acknowledge the innovation and perseverance of local composite engineering firm Kilwell Fibretube.

The family owned business has operated in Rotorua for more than 50 years with its sports division operating for more than 80.

Kilwell Fibretube Chief Executive Craig Wilson says the creation of this significant piece of art for Rotorua is the result of collaboration across many organisations and with many individuals.

“We are immensely proud of our staff for the thousands of hours of work during the two year construction period and today was an opportunity to acknowledge that work and the work of the many others that contributed to Te Ahi Tupua. From the start this project aligned with our businesses principles of continuous learning and giving back to the community.

“We also want to acknowledge Stacy and the team from Te Puia │ NZMACI. They were willing to try a new medium and explore the possibilities of blending traditional practices with a different type of modern technology. This brought with it challenges but our crew were able to meet those challenges with innovative solutions which is one of the most important parts of our business.”

This journey began in 2015 when Rotorua Lakes Council and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency agreed to enter into a partnership to commission a large-scale artwork to become the centrepiece for upgrades to the intersection of State Highway 5 and 30, the roundabout at the southern entrance to Rotorua.

In November that year, Council put out a call to artists across Aotearoa for expressions of interest to produce the artwork. Some of the criteria for designs included ensuring the artwork would be viewable below road level by cyclists and pedestrians using the underpass, should have a height from foundation of 7 – 10 metres and would be fit for a high-profile gateway to Rotorua.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Acting Director Regional Relationships Steve Mutton says Te Ahi Tupua transforms the SH5/SH30 Hemo roundabout into a culturally significant space that reflects local stories.

“Public art projects like this are important because they help create gateways, make state highways more attractive, and offer a sense of place and identity.”

Te Ahi Tupua funders and contributors:

  •   •  Rotorua Lakes Council

  •   •  Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency

  •   •  Kilwell Fibretube

  •   •  New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute |Te Puia

  •   •  Rotorua Trust

  •   •  Rotorua Community Arts Trust

  •   •  Lion Foundation

  •   •  Infinity Foundation

  •   •  Red Stag Timber

  •   •  Rotorua Public Arts Trust

  •   •  WSP

For more information about Te Ahi Tupua visit www.rotorualakescouncil.nz/teahitupua

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