15 Feb 2017

A rare and treasured piece of pounamu pulled from a West Coast river will mark the entranceway to the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial.

The 270-kilogram piece of pounamu has been gifted by Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu to be a touchstone that connects visitors to the memorial back to the land and those who have been before them.

A rich green in colour and with a striking white snowflake effect, the Tahutahi pounamu is the rarest of all the pounamu stone types and can only be found on the Cascade Plateau, south of Haast. 

Two men looking over the Pounamu

Carver Fayne Robinson and his nephew Caleb looking over the pounamu that will placed at the memorial.

It was specially selected for the memorial site and has been worked on by renowned Maori carver Fayne Robinson, whose works have been showcased in New Zealand galleries and international collections.

Working on the pounamu has been an honour for Robinson. He knows many people whose lives were touched by the Canterbury earthquakes, including his own nephew, who helped to rescue people who were caught in a bus that was crushed by falling masonry when the February 22, 2011 earthquake hit. Eight people died on that bus.

Robinson hopes people visiting the memorial site will connect with the pounamu and draw positive energy from it. “Because it is going to be located slightly off the Wall it will be a really nice way to cleanse yourself when you come out,’’ Robinson says.

Associate Minister supporting Greater Christchurch Regenetation Nicky Wagner said there was an established Māori tradition of placing pounamu at important entranceways, and the ritual of touching the stone connects visitors back to the land and all those who have been there before them. 

“The pounamu has been sourced from a remote South Westland valley and gifted by Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio, a Ngāi Tahu sub-tribe. It’s a special contribution to an area that will mean a lot to Cantabrians and the families of those affected by the earthquakes," Ms Wagner said.

“The pounamu has been mounted onto a plinth with a Carrara marble base. A water feature representing the mauri of wai (spiritual energy of water) will spray water across the pounamu. The water will also accentuate the rich green colour of the pounamu.

Ngai Tahu Kai Tohutohu Toi (arts adviser) Tui Falwasser said the kōhatu pounamu stone will show the wider community and visitors that the local people of the land, Mana Whenua Ngāi Tūāhuriri/Ngai Tahu acknowledge the special significance of the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial and the role it will play in our community.

"From an iwi perspective, it was important that people would view a piece of pounamu of size and significance, and see it as a sign of the mana we give this memorial and the aroha we wanted to extend."