Tag Archives: Maori

Pukeahu. National War Memorial Park

On a Sunday afternoon in late August that hinted at the beginning of a warm spring ( that hasn’t really happened sadly) we journeyed into Wellington to visit Pukeahu ( Puke Ahu, meaning “sacred hill”)  National War Memorial Park.  This project was completed in time for commemorations of World War 1 and required a good deal of altered roading and central city reconfiguration.

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According to the background printed material “It is a place for all New Zealanders and visitors to reflect on and remember the contribution of the many New Zealanders who lost their lives and served in our external military conflicts over the years.  It is also a place to consider how the experience of war, military conflict and peacekeeping has shaped our ideals and sense of national identity.”

Nearby the old Mt Cook ( the old European name for this area) Police Barracks building has been restored and links to another violent event in New Zealand, dating back to 1881 when Government forces invaded Parihaka and Maori prisoners were held in a prison on Mt Cook.  There is a memorial to these prisoners adjacent to the old Dominion Museum building but which I missed seeing on this visit.

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The pedestrian only park area is large and open to the elements.  On the day we visited the elements were relatively calm and warm.  In Wellington’s windy climate it will be a very exposed and cold spot despite the plantings of native trees.

These tall, red stone columns dominate the northern section of the park area and represent links between Australia and New Zealand and the history of shared service.  Unfortunately a very disturbed young man was behaving very erratically towards us and other visitors so we moved away quickly.  We missed reading the various panels and viewing the artworks from the Balarinji Studio in Sydney and the those made by Jacob Manu Scott acknowledging tikanga Maori.

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This statue drew my attention.  She is Hinerangi, a kuia in bronze standing ready to karanga.  The area on which she stands was the garden that local Maori cultivated before the European settlers arrived.

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Overlooking the park area is the Carillon, which opened in 1932 and is 50 metres tall.  74 bells are regularly rung and I have happy memories of listening to the Carillon play as we visited the old Dominion Museum with our parents on a weekend or holiday.  The bells have names linking to WW1 and WW11 and four of the large bells bear the names: Grace, Hope, Remembrance and Peace.  A Lamp of Remembrance burns constantly on top of the tower.

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Near the doorway to the beautiful, sombre, Hall of Memories is this bronze sculpture of “The Man with the Donkey” which was inspired by the actions of NZ stretcher bearer Richard Henderson and his donkey “Murphy” at Gallipoli in 1915.  Paul Walshe’s sculpture pays tribute to all medical personnel, stretcher bearers and ambulance drivers who served in wartimes.  My paternal Grandfather was in the medical corps in Egypt in WW1 so this sculpture touches my family.

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We visited the Hall of Memories, built in 1964 and stood quietly with other visitors in this respectful and reflective space that was lit by afternoon sun through the beautiful west facing stained glass windows. Each person with their own memories, thoughts and feelings.
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The current New Zealand flag is draped over the tomb of the Unknown Warrior in the sanctuary here and reminds us poignantly that a flag requires dignity and solemnity in such circumstances.

Sheltering in summer

On a cool and very blustery day I found this cicada sheltering on a rock in the garden.
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It has been a dull season so far for these familiar summer companions here in New Zealand.
As my A.W.B Powell’s “Native Animals of New Zealand” tells me: “On a hot summer’s day the air seems to crackle with the volume of sound produced by hundreds of these insects singing together.”

First edition published in 1947.  This copy published 1961

First edition published in 1947. This copy published 1961


The sound of cicadas has been missing, in the main, this season with so many windy days and cooler temperatures. Perhaps there will be a late run of the cicada chorus.

And for a humorous quote about cicadas please visit my post here.

And for a fascinating piece about the star Sirius and traditional Maori beliefs check out this post and the comments.

A walk in the Tree tops

One of the special features at Otari Open air plant Museum is the Tree top walk.
This wooden walkway begins here with a Waharoa or gateway into a spiritual realm.
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Ahead are tall trees.
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The walkway bridges the Open air Museum to the Information Centre and spans a deep, deep gully.
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For those who dare to look over the sturdy rail there are fascinating views to be had.
Look at the wonderful star shape that forms in the crown of a large tree fern.
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While the walkway is in the canopy of tall New Zealand Native trees there are plenty which reach higher than the walkway.
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This is where we spotted one Keruru.
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Every so often there are views out over the greater Otari Bush reserve showing viewers this very rugged countryside that is so typical of the hills of Wellington.
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And the density of the native bush when it is left to its own devices.
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Some very old and beautiful specimen are within reach.
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And at the end of the walkway there is another Keruru perched very high up on what appears to be a twig.
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While we had something of a bird’s eye view on the walkway we were really being viewed all the while by the birds.

Rare, exceptional, beautiful

The work camera was grabbed this morning when a very rare Kotuku, White Heron, was seen in a car park in Porirua.

This website: gives you a lot more detail about this very special visitor.

Perhaps it was en route to Okarito, the only place in New Zealand where these birds breed. The breeding season begins in August.

Maori (New Zealand’s indigenous people) have this saying:

He Kotuku rerenga tahi.
A Kotuku’s flight is seen but once.

And this paragraph off the above website describes beautifully how exceptional this lovely, lovely bird is to us.

“In Maori oratory, the most telling compliment is to liken someone to Kotuku. It symbolizes everything rare and beautiful. It was said that Kotuku is an inhabitant of the nether world, the spirit land of Reinga, and that an old funeral chant ends with these words to the departed: “Ko to kotuku to tapui, e Tama e – Kotuku is now thy sole companion, O my son!”
So seldom does Kotuku appear in any locality that “rare as the Kotuku” has passed into a proverb among Maori.”

And this sunset completed a lovely day, which had offered a significant event.

The Transit of Venus and our dual heritage.

Today was momentous in the astronomical world with a transit of Venus being visible here in New Zealand. The next one does not occur until 2117.

Sadly a very wet, snow –filled and bitterly cold weather system came in and caused much of New Zealand to miss the chance of witnessing this event.

In Tolaga Bay today many, many people gathered to commemorate and observe the Transit because the history of New Zealand is inextricably linked to the passage of the planet Venus across the sun.

Captain James Cook was dispatched from England in 1768 to sail to Tahiti in time to observe the Transit in June 1769. He was successful in this and then sailed further west in the hope of finding a large land mass that earlier explorers had reported existed.
Cook’s young crew member Nick Young spotted land in Poverty Bay later in 1769 and made landfall in that general area, making Tolaga Bay very significant.

Cook’s surveying skills and ability to sail in unknown waters saw him successfully circumnavigate our land and map much of the coast very accurately. While he was not the first European explorer to find my country, he was the first to sail around the entire country.

Maori explorers were well advanced navigators and had sailed from more northern parts of the Pacific Ocean around 1250-1300 AD. Skilled observers of the stars enabled these early Maori sailors to navigate over vast areas of ocean.

We have dual heritage here in New Zealand. Europeans share this land with the Maori, the indigenous people. My walk in a local park last weekend reminded me of this dual heritage as I walked amongst very tall non-indigenous trees that the European settlers bought with them and the unique indigenous trees of New Zealand.

Oak tree with a Rimu tree in the background

New Zealand Rimu tree

Cicada beats

A fellow blogger at Ruth’s reflections was wondering what triggers the sudden appearance of our noisy, New Zealand summer companions, the cicada. It seems that the cicadas in Christchurch had come out en masse about the same time I noticed an upsurge in numbers here in Porirua. They are late this year but in the past two or three weeks the air has been crackling with the songs of the males.

I did a little investigating and found that soil temperatures around 22C certainly spur on their growth but the interesting information that captured my imagination was this piece:

“Maori and native Americans share an interesting link with cicadas.
Both identify the insects with the Dog Star, Sirius, which is at meridian in the summer sky when the nymphs emerge.
While many people do not realise that New Zealand has more than one type of cicada, Maori recognised 12 types based on their song and identified their arrival with the Dog Star, named Rehua after a forest deity. Cicadas are considered to be his protégés.
Various native American tribes have names for the insects that can be translated as Dog Star cicadas.”
Source: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=174350

Is there a star gazer out there who can tell me when Sirius appeared in the sky above New Zealand this year….perhaps the powerful light of a star is the tipping point for masses of cicadas to emerge from the ground and begin their short but noisy lives?