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Puhi Kai Iti Cook Landing Site transforming with tukutuku

20 Aug 2019

Puhi Kai Iti Cook Landing Site transforming with tukutuku

Construction of circular walls featuring the largest tukutuku panels in the world is nearing completion as the Puhi Kai Iti Cook Landing Site redevelopment begins to take shape.

The project partnership of Ngati Oneone, The Department of Conservation and Gisborne District Council began construction in January at the national historic reserve site to lay the groundwork for the whare wananga Puhi Kai Iti.

The space will represent 1000 years of navigation and settlement in Turanganui-a-Kiwa Gisborne with sculpture and storytelling that acknowledges the ancestor Maia who landed at Tawararo (Kaiti Beach) and settled at the site, through to the landing of Lieutenant Cook at the same site 750 years later.

One hundred and twelve steel tukutuku panels, punched with 53,900 individual holes have been woven with 7.3km of cord by volunteers from Ngāti Oneone and DOC, Gisborne District Council and other skilled weavers from around Tairawhiti.

Nick Tupara, Ngati Oneone artist and representative developed the woven designs incorporating patterns kaokao, poutama, roimata tōroa, pātiki and patterns specific to Te Poho o Rāwiri Marae. 

Mr Tupara says it’s been a physical challenge because of the sheer size, scale and materials of the tukutuku – steel and rope - compared to harakeke and slat board.

Tukutuku was used by Māori to bind materials for houses and the same techniques were used to bind waka that navigated to Aotearoa New Zealand.

“In weaving, you get to exchange with another person with a barrier between you, and together you offer materials through that barrier and create something quite beautiful at the end,” says Mr Tupara.

“The space aims to balance the historical narratives of the region, bind a sharing of stories, history and heritage, to bring together our shared differences.”

Department of Conservation Biodiversity Ranger Jamie Quirk says the team have been working on the project since 2016 and is proud to see the space finally taking shape.

“Elements like the tukutuku wall will encourage people to come, enjoy the site and understand what's happened here over a long, long period of time.”

The redevelopment of the national historic reserve will complement the rich experiences of Tupapa and the navigational and historic korero in the Inner Harbour and Titirangi redevelopments.

Council Director of Transformation and Relationships, Keita Kohere says construction at the landing site is due to be completed in September.

“A sculpture acknowledging the tipuna Te Maro will also be installed at the Ruatanuika lookout next month, and we plan to complete the 1000year walkbridge and wananga observation facility on Titirangi in 2020.” 

“When complete it will be a space for locals and visitors to gather and reflect on the importance and significance of this place in our history.”

The Puhi Kai Iti Cook Landing Site National Historic Reserve upgrades and narrative will include:

  • Sculpture acknowledging ancestor Māia and his arrival on the Te Ikaroa a Rauru waka.
  • Acknowledgement of the first whare wānangā, Puhi Kai-Iti circa 1450-75.
  • Sculpture to depict hue (gourds) that Maia was skilled in cultivating.
  • Nine pou to represent the men shot in the encounter with Endeavour crew.
  • Strengthening of the cenotaph.
  • Excerpts from the diaries’ of Cook and his crew.
  • Drawings by botanists from the Endeavour, Banks and Solander
  • Discs symbolising pennies donated in the national fund-raising effort by local children to build the monument.
  • History of the development of the port.

The $5.3m project is fully funded by Department of Conservation, Lotteries Significant Project Fund and the Provincial Growth Fund.


Installation of Tukutuku panels by Currie Construction will be completed and woven together onsite this week.