Te Poupou A Tane Mahuta
The carved pole of Tane Mahuta

Front

PouThe carved pole of Tane Mahuta was commissioned by the Tourist Hotel Corporation to commemorate the Centenary of the first recorded exploration of the Waitomo Glowworm Cave. The single log of totara was carved by Tutunui Te Kanawa and others in 1986-1987.

Tane Mahuta stands atop of the poupou. He is the God of the Forest and the protector of all the living things it contains. It was Tane who separated the earth and sky, Rangi and Papa, thus allowing life to cover the earth. In his right ear is a bone flute pendant, a mautaaringa koauau inscribed with the names of fifty people who were associated with the carving project. Spiraling down from his hands is the vine of the rata.

Below Tane is the kawau, the cormorant or the shag. The bird is special to the local Maniapoto tribe, the great forefather of the tribe, Maniapoto, many centuries ago left his people with a whakatauki, a proverb.  He asked them to hold fast to both their objective and their identity.  The cormorant is frequently seen on the Waitomo River and sometimes around the stream entrance of the Cave.  Further down there are three children of Tane, the kereru or native wood pigeon, the tui and the pirairaka, the fantail.

Nga puratoki, the glowworm, are found both in caves and the forest, the paua inlay represents their feeding lines. To the top left amongst the stalactites is the glowworm pupa, below is the male glowworm fly and to the right the larger female fly. Below her is the cave weta which, like the glowworms is found in both caves and the forest.

Below the cave weta is the tuna or eel and on it’s tail is the freshwater crayfish or koura, again both abundant in the Waitomo River below. Underneath the tuna is Rua-a-moko, God of Underground responsible for earthquakes and the fire of volcanoes. Between his feet is the “King Country Taniwha  knot” a local carved feature derived from the whai of string games.

Bordering the centenary dates is a design of spirals and ridges called pakura. The skirt on the four faces at the base of te poupou is the fish scale pattern una unahi, as with every angle over the entire surface of te poupou, this is designed to shed water and protect the carving from decay.

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East Face - Road Side 

Below Tane is some more of his children, first makomako  the bellbird perching on the stalk of the rata flower, below is ruru the morepork with his prey the kiore a rat, to the left are mokomoko the lizards. Next to the glowworm look for the tiny snail or ngata in the flower of the rata vine and just below this sits kotaretare, the kingfish.

The next section represents the wetland habitat, the repo or swamp with the wheki treefern, the harakeke or flax to the far left and behind the pukeko or swamp hen is the raupo or native weed. To the left of the wheki treefern trunk is the shorter, thicker wiwi bulrush, to the right the longer thinner wawa bulrush.

Below the repo, representing the sky in the form of a rainbow is Uenuku a tribal God of the Waikato people. Below Uenuku is Ngapikowai, a manaia or bird like form that takes its name from the bend in the river (ngapikowai) just below.  Look for the five smaller manaia with paua inlay eyes around Ngapikowai, in each of their beaks is a different kind of seed. The wavy lines with the spirals on the legs of Ngapikowai are a feature unique to the carver of the poupou. Some of this carving was done with greenstone chisels.

Below Ngapikowai is a vortex or whirlpool pattern representing the turbulent swirling water in some deeper parts of the Waitomo River. The same pattern is reproduced on all four faces with a slight variation to each.

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Rear

The pattern on the back of Tane’s head represents nga hau e wha, the four winds or points of the compass and the leaves within the white scroll borders represent all the other trees which are not featured elsewhere in the carving. In the middle is another seed, this represents those seeds that are dispersed by the winds.  The flowering vine below and to the left is pipikaiatua the native clematis and the vine to the right is kariao the supplejack.

West Face

During the carving of te poupou the chief carver was blessed with three more mokopuna or grandchildren so here they are just below Tane. From the left they are Tumai, Tutnui and Takuaroha, look carefully and you will see they are all boys.

Below the rata flower is our smallest bird tititipounamu the rifleman, the spiral design around them is called rauponga.

The glowworm is amongst the stalactites and flowstone of a cave, it has just caught a naeroa or midge which is being hauled up to be eaten. Below them to the left is our native palm the nikau. The large flightless bird is the moa. It is now extinct but its bones are frequently found in the caves around Waitomo. The smaller bird is of course the kiwi which still lives in the surrounding forests. The tree on the right is the ti whanaka the native palm-lily or cabbage tree and at its base some more of the harakeke or flax.

The face behind the rata vine is the sun. The roots of the rata that has climbed around te poupou all the way to Tane at the top are embedded here and are growing in the mixture of sand, soil and the moisture the onepu, the ingredients of all life. 

D.R.W.

“Whenever you pass Tane, acknowledge him, give him your blessings and make his mana grow” Claude Taane.

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September 2017

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Ngā Tapuwae o Ngā Tūpuna - Ruapuha Uekaha Hapū Trust

This is a collection of korero pertaining to our marae Rereamanu – Ngāti Huiao and our connections to Hangatiki and Waitomo that has been left to us by our Tūpuna for us and our future generations.
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Corporate Documents

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Our History

Our History

Read Bruce Stirling's report on the compulsory acquisition of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves in the early 1900's and the Wai 51 claim that saw the Caves returned to the Ruapuha Uekaha Hapu Trust in 1990.

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