A spine tingling karakia welcomed the day and visitors to Napier Girls High School to celebrate the dawn unveiling of five very special pou.
Created from a single ancient totara, the pou, were carved by local master carver, Phil Belcher, using traditional tools.
The tree had lain on the floor of Maungataniwha Forest for 50 or 60 years, after being felled during a period when native logging was taking place in the region, and was discovered during harvesting of radiata pine trees. Rayonier Matariki Forests arranged for the massive tree, which measured approximately 1.5 meters in diameter, to be hauled out of the forest, loaded onto trucks and delivered to East Coast Lumber to be cut into more manageable four meter lengths for the carver.
Rayonier Matariki Forests Hawkes Bay regional manager, Matt Croft said he was delighted to be able to help the school and wider community with the pou project. “While it was certainly outside of a normal day’s harvesting, seeing the massive totara transformed into the five majestic pou was wonderful.”
Napier Girls High School deputy principal, Philipp Otto, said the result is outstanding. “The carvings are simply stunning. They show detail and demonstrate the incredible carving skills of Phil Belcher. He wanted to do justice to this exceptionally high quality piece of wood and carefully researched every detail for his carving. Consultations with kaumatua, local hapu members and historians ensured the project reflected the significance of putting pou up on this hill, Mataruahou, which is the first time in known history,” said Mr Otto.
The pou not only highlight the significance of the site on which the school is built but for many students it also references to their own ancestors like the descendants of Pania and Karetoki, to the four main waka which Maori in Hawke’s Bay originate from.
The installation aims to inspire the students and encourage them to do their ancestors proud, as they learn about their lives and achievements.
The five pou stand proudly at the front of the school as a symbolic whare – a place to officially welcome visitors.
“What started as a seed of an idea seven years ago, by our then long-serving Te Reo teacher, Jenny Cracknell, followed by a three year search for a suitable piece of wood, and the two years it took to carve, we have seen such great community support of tikanga Maori and our students,” said Mr Otto.