te Runanganui o Taranaki Whanui ki te Upoko o te Ika a
MAORI HEART OF THE HOUSE
THE stage was now set to complete the heart
of the building-the Maori heart.
Throughout the war years priceless Maori carvings, gems of Maori art, had
lain inadequately stored. These carvings were the result of the inspiration
of Sir Apirana Ngata. He had conceived the idea of building and carving a
meeting-house at the Wellington Centennial Exhibition held in Wellington
during 1940. He drew together the nation's best carvers for this work.
Carved from the best heart totara available, these carvings were offered to
the Maoris of the South Island, after the exhibition, on the understanding
that they would build a suitable meeting-house to house them in
Christchurch. The southern Maoris had declined the gift. Hearing this, Mr.
Puketapu approached the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Peter Fraser and
offered to buy the carvings for erection in the meeting-house being planned
for Waiwhetu. The offer was accepted.
The late Mr. Gordon Wilson, government architect, drew up the plans for a
magnificent house - a house worthy of the carvings. It was found that for
such a large building an additional 5000 super feet of heart totara would
have to be carved. The tukutuku (woven reed panels) also had to be done. Six
carvers were employed, namely Charles Tuarau in the planning stages, and
later Hone Taiapa as head carver, together with Ngata Ruru, James Ruru, Rangi
Hetet and Charles Rutene. One tukutuku expert, Mrs. Roa Wharepouri was also
engaged. The collection and preparation of the kie kie plant for the
tukutuku panels and the beautiful woven mats that will adorn the house on
ceremonial occasions was done under the tutorship and supervision of Mrs.
Ngaroahiahi Waiwai, an old lady from the Urewera country steeped in the
ancient skills of her people. These were the elite craftsmen and women, the
masters in Maori art. Working under them and with them at various times were
over 150 voluntary workers, Maori and pakeha. They worked cheerfully and
consistently both in the meeting-house and in some cases weaving tukutuku
panels in their homes as far away as Otaki, Waikanae, Porirua and
There are over 10,000 super feet of heart
totara carvings in the building. The tukutuku work covers 600 square feet.
The overall dimensions of the meeting-house are 98' x 58'.
Ngatiporou carver and master craftsman, Mr Hone Te Kauru Taiapa, MBE, who
was head carver on the job.