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Sculptures Bring Cameron Road History To Life

Sculptures depicting some of the rich cultural history of the Te Papa Peninsula are now on display along Cameron Road, as an acknowledgement of our past to carry us into the future.

As well as road safety improvements, providing more transport options and upgrading 100-year-old water pipes under the road, the Cameron Road upgrade was also about making the area a more attractive destination for people, not just a commuting corridor.

The three 4.5m sculptures by Tauranga artist and carver Whare Thompson are placed at culturally significant locations along the corridor, and aim to share the rich history and stories of the area.

Whare (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whātua and Te Whakatōhea) hopes the design of the artworks will draw the community in for a closer look to reflect and connect with the kaupapa each piece represents.

The 'Ko' sculpture at First Avenue looks out across Waikareao Estuary to Motuopae Island. Photo credit: Matt Hunt.

The first piece near First Avenue represents a kō, a 2-3m traditional wooden digging stick, used for gardening. It is a reminder this area was once a place of fertile and productive gardens.

“Looking westward from here into the Waikareao Estuary you can see Motuopae Island, a former pā site and home to the ancestor Kinotaraia and his son Tuaurutapu. Kinotaraia was also known as Tamarāwaho which translates as ‘son of the sea breeze’ and is the ancestor from which the hapū takes its name. These days, the island is the urupa, burial ground, for Ngāi Tamarāwaho,” says Whare.

The fountain design on top of 'Pataka' at Seventh Avenue is designed to catch rainwater which will gently spray out, symbolising the life cycle of growth. Photo credit: Matt Hunt.
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Seventh Avenue is home to the next piece which represents a pātaka – a traditional storehouse for food or valuables. The design features an intricate kowhaiwhai pattern and is centrally lit to glow at night, symbolising the sun and moon.

“The kowhaiwhai pattern belongs to Ngāi Tamarāwaho and can also be seen woven into other pieces of cultural art in the area, including at Ōtūmoetai Primary School and Te Kura o Manunui. The fountain design on top of the structure is designed to catch rainwater which will gently spray out, symbolising the life cycle of growth,” says Whare.

'Manaakitanga' at the SH2/Fifteenth Avenue intersection of Cameron Road tells a special story from the battle of Battle of Pukehinahina/Gate Pā, as well as representing the showing of care and respect for people. Photo credit: Matt Hunt.

The artwork at the Fifteenth Avenue intersection with SH2 represents a water-carrying taha or bottle gourd made from the husk of a hue or gourd. It also represents the concept of manaakitanga - the showing of care and respect for people.

“In this case it is a reference to the Battle of Pukehinahina/Gate Pā in April 1864. Following the battle some Māori women are known to have tended to wounded soldiers by giving them water and loading them onto horses so they could be taken to the field hospital for treatment. One wāhine is believed to be either a teenager, Te Auetu, or her mother Matatu, both of Ngāi Tamarāwaho hapū. Their actions are also captured on a carved ceremonial pou on the actual battlefield at Gate Pā,” says Whare.

The artworks are made from a combination of Corten steel and Hinuera stone and include an interpretative panel nearby. There are a further eight interpretive panels located along Cameron Road that share some of the Māori and European history of the area.

Ngāi Tamarāwaho spokesperson Buddy Mikaere says the works not only capture some key aspects of hapū history but are also a tribute to kaumātua Peri Kohu who strongly influenced many of the cultural aspects of the Cameron Road upgrade. Peri passed away in 2022. “I think Peri would have been very pleased with the outcome," says Buddy.

The artworks were unveiled at a dawn blessing of the completion of the project at the weekend.

Commissioner Bill Wasley says it’s great to celebrate the successful completion of this stage of the Cameron Road upgrade, which has created better, safer connections across the Te Papa Peninsula as well as making it more attractive and providing more ways to move around.

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