A significant kōhatu pounamu (greenstone) at the memorial entrance indicates the importance of the memorial. It has been gifted by Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio (Ngai Tahu sub-tribe). There is an established Māori tradition of placing pounamu at important entranceways and thresholds, and the ritual of touching the stone connects visitors and locals back to the land and all those who have been there before us.
The pounamu was specially selected by Ngāi Tahu representatives in the South Westland mountains and airlifted out.
It has been mounted onto a plinth with a Carrara marble base. Ngāi Tahu master carver, Fayne Robinson, in consultation with memorial designer Greg Vezjak, crafted three designs that have been sandblasted into the marble base:
Kowhaiwhai whakairo: this represents male and female components and the presence of whanau, hapu and iwi. It depicts generational growth and represents life’s cycle of growth through the ‘piko’ or koru – the unfurling fronds of the fern.
Puhoro: this traditional design application of toi kowhaiwhai represents the passage or ara (path), acknowledging the way we were before 22 February 2011. It encompasses the ability for movement and reflection of both people and the adjacent river, Ōtākaro.
Te ngaru pae: secondary waves. These are depicted as seismic waves or quivers, and are horizontal and lesser in speed and impact than the primary wave. Traditional aspects of implied negative and positive spacing create a distinct contrasting outline and the ability to recognise a spiritual context which depicts the cycle of life and death.
Mirrored segments of the implied kowhaiwhai design reflect the pulse or heartbeat of the ru whenua (earthquake). This depicts the mauri (spiritual energy) and acknowledges that where there is death, there is life, and the importance to remember loss, reflect resilience and celebrate coming out of the dark (Te Po) and into the light (Te Ao Marama).
A water feature representing the mauri of wai (spirit energy of water) sprays water across the pounamu. The water will also accentuate the rich green colour of the pounamu.
Ngāi Tahu master carver, Fayne Robinson: “The pounamu mauri kōhatu enables a physical connection for visitors to experience, reflect and remember the loss of life, and the resilience of people, the natural environment and the importance of a Ngai Tahu visible presence in the memorial precinct.”
Over time, sunlight will warm and rain will wash the pounamu, and its appearance will change. It will remain a tangible and beautiful reminder of the deep connection between the land and its people.