The Carvings both inside and outside the wharenui (including the flagpole) were created under the supervision of master carver Hone Heke. Together, they represent the pan-tribal, inclusive nature of the marae and its name: Te Ngira.
When Te Mãori' toured the United States of America it was a new experience for the world of art, history, literature and culture. Art was seen as a living part of a people. Te Maori swept the Americans into tears of joy and excitement as they witnessed kaumatua reciting ancient karakia and waiata to honour their taonga. Te Mãori returned triumphantly to New Zealand and again won the hearts of people here. This was achieved because the taonga belonged to New Zealand - this was their turangawaewae, their kainga tuturu. The spirit of Te Maori', and the waka taua of 1990 are symbolised in this koruru.
Te Rangi Flagpole
The carved flag-pole, another of Hone Heke's carvings stands on the marae as a symbol for the mana and status, and for the holistic development of the people spiritual, social and physical. Te Rangi ki runga, ko tēnei te rangi i oti ai: (The day for the realisation of a dream and the wish of Te Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu that the spirit of 1990 will Soar above our nation.) These words were spoken by kaumatua rangatira, Rua Cooper, QSO.
One of the amo at the front (taraiti) of the house is Hoturoa. All Tainui tribes claim Huturoa as their principle ancestor. On landing at Whangaparaoa Hoturoa and his people stayed a while and then recommenced their journey along the coast. There, the daughter of Hoturoa, named Torere, remained at a place now known by that name. She subsequently left and settled at Umupuia near Clevedon. Continuing northwards, the Tainui waka arrived at Ahuahu (Great Mercury Island) and from there the people of Tainui visited Whitianga. Tainui was portaged across the Tamaki lsthmus to Manukau and onto Kawhia.
Amo on the tarawhanui of the house. After making landfall at Whāngārā, Toroa took Mātaatua waka to Whangaparāoa and then to Tauranga and eventually to Whakatāne. The regional boundaries of this group known as Nga Kuri a Whārei ki Tikirau is the Bay of Plenty. Toroa established a shrirne (tūāhu) at Whakatane and a superior house there named Tupapakurau His younger brother Puhi and another relative, Rāhiri left with Mātaatua waka to establish a powerful tribe in the north Ngā Puhi. This carving depicts Toroa.
Te Ngira Pare
This lintel (pare), above the door is the entrance into the Womb of the ancestor. Through the body of the tipuna we are conceived, nourished during gestation, and are born into the world. It is also symbolic of the portal to Hinenuitepo, kaitiaki mō e tangata birth, life and death. It is said that a person stepping over the paepae (threshold) at the doorway becomes ritually cleansed.
The pare, or carved lintel, above the window is unique. It depicts a traditional waka alongside an Air New Zealand Boeing 747. This carving symbolises the three elements embodied in the above statement by Sir Apirana Ngata. The aircraft, held in the left hand indicates the mastery of Pakeha skill, technology and language for well-being in a modern, industrialised Society, while the waka, held in the right hand, brings into focus those things of Māori ancestors. Overlooking these two factors is the pervasive omnipresence of God. One day, we say, one of our uri will pilot an aircraft like this jumbo jet.
Kōwhaiwhai patterns complete the decorations for a meetinghouse and express the strength of nature- sea, forest, contours of the land, the lift of a bird in flight, the tree tops, foliage and life's challenges. Kōwhaiwhai als provide a link with ancestors and the legacies they handed on to present and future generations. Colours relate to the kaupapa (philosophy) of the house as a place of learning. Kōwhaivwhai patterns suggest strong movements within the ecological checks and balances in nature's cycles. Having an affinity with the spiritual realm, there Is a coming and going of being lost and found, the eternal search for the meaning of life. The stylised patterns highlight the human attempt to express order on a landscape that is shrouded in mist, and a seascape that dissolves in spray. Heke on both sides of the house share the same patterns where one mirrors the other. Each heke reaches across to the opposite side of the house through the curves and curls of koru patterns, in this way the genealogical links between major tribes are maintained. This is known as whaka-whanaungatanga. The pattern on the tāhuhu (ridge-pole) running along the tops of the rafters, is Manawa (heart). It is the heart which carries the blood links with all parts of the house kōruru, poupou, heke, pou-tahutahu, poutaurongo all given expression in this whare whakairo. Symbolically the meeting house is also the body of an ancestor. This pattern is named Manawa and is characteristically drawn from the surrounding environs of Papakura, Manukau and Hunua.
According to Sir Peter Te Rangihiroa Buck, Tokomaru waka was commanded by Whata with the main priests being Rākeiora and Tama-Ariki. The canoe made landfall on the east coast off the Bay of Plenty at Whangaparaoa. It sailed around the North Cape and landed at Tongapōrutu River where the crew went north to settle at Mōkau. The Mōkau River formed the boundary to Onuku Taipari, south of New Plymouth, where they joined with Taranaki tribes who claim descent from the people of Kurahaupo waka. The territory north and south of Mōhakatino River was occupied by Ngāti Tama, Ngati Mutunga, Ngāti Rāhiri, Manukorihi, Puketapu, and Ngāti Maru. The two chiefs depicted in this poupou are Whata and Manaia. They were co-leaders of Kurahaupō and had interchangeable roles as tohunga and as leader of this Taranaki waka. It is generally agreed that Whata was commander of Tokomaru. The final landfall for this ancestral waka is Mōhakatino River and from it the tribes of Taranaki.
Tamatea Arikinui was a leading navigator of considerable mana and as the Master of the Tākitimu waka. His knowledge and skills in open blue water sailing were widely acknowledged. Sailing to New Zealand from Rarotonga around 950AD, Tākitimu first made landfall at Awanui near Kaitāia. His son, Kahungunu was born there. He later extended his voyage and landed in Tauranga where he planted a sacred flax called Wharawharanui. He lived there awhile on Mangatawa, a mountain overlooking Tauranga Harbour. From there he handed command to Tahu Pōtiki who travelled further down the East Coast to Wairoa and Wairarapa. Tahu Pōtiki circumnavigated Te Waipounamu. Tamatea later acquired the name Tamatea Pokaiwhenua because of his passion for plants and agriculture. A love story is told by Ngāti Kahungunu of his love for a young woman. Near Pourangahau, south of Dannevirke is a hill with the name:Te Taumatawhakatangihangakoauaupukepikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu. It has eighty five letters and is the longest place name in the world. It means, "Tamatea played his flute to lure his young lover to climb the mountain without slipping as he waited and prepared a meal for them to share and make love.”
Custody of the sea is attributed to Tangaroa. To Tangaroa we also cite the cultural and geographical links with the whole of the Pacific region and the origins of Māori. With the construction and sailing of waka the three atua consulted for consent were Tane (forests), Tawhirimatea (the elements), and Tangaroa (the sea). This pou whakairo depicts the mauri of the sea and Tangaroa's children that abound there.
According to Ngati Porou tradition, Pawa (or Paoa) was the captain of Horouta waka and Kiwa the principal Priest. Pawa brought with him, among other things, kūmara plants together with the magic ko - named Pehu - on the return voyage of Horouta. They made landfall at Ahuahu (Mercury Island) where a violent storm arose while they were off the coast of Opōtiki. It is said that a woman named Kanawa had brought fern root aboard without reciting the proper rituals. Because of this, the waka capsized and drifted ashore. Pawa went inland and found the timber for repairs. In Maungahaumia, in order to float the logs downstream, he increased the streams volume by discharging the waters from his body and thus formed Waiōeka, Waihou, Motu and the Waipawa rivers.
The Takitimu waka circumnavigated both the North and South Islands of New Zealand and eventually made its final resting place after it had been abandoned at the Waiau River near Invercargill. The waka now forms the eminence known as Tamatea Pae Maunga or the Tākitimu Ranges. The fingers pointing downwards depict Māori cultural and geographic links with their Pacific Island origins in Rarotonga, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti and Hawaii. It also symbolises the trees found in the Pacific Islands and the absence of Totara or Kauri for waka construction there.
Te Arawa confederation of tribes: Ngā Pūmanawa e Waru, Ngāti Tūwharetoa. This pou whakairo symbolises the mobility and the mischievous nature of Tamatekapua. Tamatekapua,the giant son of Houmaitawhiti of Hawaiki, was one of the most controversial and swashbuckling chiefs of his time. He is first mentioned with his brother Whakatūria in their search for Pōtaka - Tawhiti, a dog belonging to Houmaitawhiti. It was found that the dog had been captured by Uenuku and Toi-te-hau-tahi. In revenge, the brothers raided Tamatekapua's fruit trees. Whakatūria was caught and suspended upside down in the smoke of Uenuku's house and left to die but escaped through a ruse plotted by Tamatekapua. War followed and emigration was the only way to escape. The Arawa waka was built and when the time was right to sail, Tamatekapua tricked Ngātoroirangi to go abroad as a priest. Arawa eventually landed at Maketū. Tamatekapua was eventually buried at Mt Moehau in Cape Colville. This place is still known today as Te Moehau-a-Tamatekapua. He holds an axe which resembles the Arts Institute and other technical institutes for passing on the art of whakairo.
Turi left his birth place in lahiti because of trouble with his wife and later settled in Raiatea where he remarried but soon found himself with his second wife's relatives faced with these challenges luri exchanged a valuable cloak for the Aotea waka and immediately set sail for Aotearoa. Turi and his crew landed in the East Coast district but did not stay long before travelling north via Waitematā the last resting place of Aotea is Aotea Harbour in South Taranaki. The chief Turi and his birds are depicted in this pou whakairo. Thoughts go back to Parihaka and Te Whiti who even fed those people who wronged them including women taking water to the troops. This carved pou shows Te Whiti's peace despite extreme provocation.
Wrecked at the Kermadec Islands, it is said the crew of Kurahaupo waka transferred across to Aotea and Matatua. There were three versions to the incomplete story of Kurahaupo. In one it states that it eventually made its final landfall in Northland at Whangaroa Harbour, and the other two versions in le Maungaroa, Taranaki, Ruatea and Wanganui. Te Maungaroa is generally accepted as the rangatira and priest of Kurahaupo waka which formed part of the fleet to Aotearoa. Associated with the story of Te Maungaroa is the story of Wharemātangi, son of Ngarue, and his magic dart. The chiefly lineage of the Taranaki people comes down from Te Maungaroa. There is a school of thought which suggests that there were two waka bearing the same name: Whatatonga and Ruatea came out on the first of these and Te Maungaroa came on a waka called Te Hawai (but named Kurahaupo after it was Completed and refitted) Te Maungaroa was the sole custodian of kura (the sacred element of wānanga). The gesture of this chief standing steadfast with his patu, is directed at the youth.
Te Mauri Waka
This pou whakairo represents the spirit of 1840 and 1990 to recognise the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. The government in 1937 handed the paddle of authority to Princess Te Puea Herangi to build seven waka taua for the forthcoming centennial War intervened and only three waka were built for the event. The dream was realised when twenty-one waka taua assembled at Waitangi on the 6th February 1990. In 1990 three waka marked the beginning of the year at Gisborne, and seven at the Opening of the Commonwealth Games in Auckland. This pou symbolises the spirit liberated by the exhibitions of Te Māori' in the USA. It all started with Te Puea who accepted the challenge. Today, waka taua and Te Tiriti o Waitangi are perceived as the embodiment of a willingness to lay down the foundations for future unity, and for the ideals of partnership. The oar in hand recognises leadership in shaping New Zealand's sense of identity, cultures and nationhood.
Te Whare Tapu Rāhiri
Rāhiri, the warrior progenitor of Ngāpuhi Nui Tonu, claims descent from Nukutawhiti, the Ariki of the canoe Ngatokimatawhaorua. Through his first wife Ahuaiti descended the hapū of the Bay of Islands; through his second wife Whakaruru down to the Hokianga hapu; and through his third wife Moetonga descended the hapu of the south west of Ngā Puhi Nui Tonu. Rāhiri also ventured into Ngāti Maru of the Firth of Thames. All the Northern Tribes claim descent from, or have genealogical ties to Rāhiri.
Te Whatu o te Whenua
The eye of the Earth that sees all things. This design is a tribute to al women who practice and preserve knowledge of the arts and crafts especially weaving. This design has been inspired by the work of Dame Rangimarie Hetet. She has not only handed on taonga to five generations of her whanau, but to the nation and world. Women are conservationists. Their arts also include literary forms such as karanga, waiata, weaving and kowhaiwhai, and hold the mauri of birth in the womb. In their arts, they uphold the principles of peace and freedom. This is like a window looking out from within so the closer we get to the window, the more we see.