News, Events and Culture

Preserving cultural heritage

Tuesday October 10 2017

Plans to preserve and better protect Palmerston North’s significant cultural artefacts take a big step forward this month.

Closeup photo shows Māori carvings outside Council chamber.

The iconic carvings Reretua, Rangitāne and Hinerau will be removed from the city council buildings this week as a three-year restoration project gets underway.

Storage and drying out facilities are now ready and waiting for the Rangitāne o Manawatū pou whenua, the distinctive wooden sculptures mounted on the exterior walls of the city’s Council Chambers. The carvings are due to be taken down this week.

Rangitāne and Council have been working closely to develop a plan for five pou whenua installed in 1990 to mark the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. The tradition around pou is that they are born, have a life-span, grow old, and eventually retire and pass away. Carvings are not usually recreated when they deteriorate.

“It comes as a surprise to some people that pou whenua are not usually subject to extensive maintenance or preservation,” says Todd Taiepa, PNCC Poutakawaenga Matua, Principal Maori Advisor. “These sculptures have both an intrinsic cultural and artistic value. As they’re in busy external public spaces, we need to have a management plan for them.”

Pou whenua, or pou, were traditionally used as ownership or boundary markers. They reflect the relationship between the ancestors, environment, and the standing of the tangata whenua.

The three on the Council building are in various stages of their life-cycles, as are two in Te Marae o Hine, The Square.

Because of their position on the wall of the Council Chambers, Reretua, Rangitāne and Hinerau have fared a little better over the years with regards their condition and lifespan. They will be taken down, dried out in storage, and restored.

Both Rongomaraeroa and Hopwoods are in a condition that has rendered them beyond repair. They are moving beyond their lifespan and must be buried where they stand, in accordance with Rangitāne protocol.

While these two pou will pass away, Rangitāne would like to bring the original entranceway pou back to life. These are Rongorito and Hine au Pounamu, which originally stood in Te Marae o Hine before being removed in the 1990s.

The process of taking down, drying, restoring, burying and reinstalling the pou will take about three years.