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Tomokanga unveiled at base of Hakarimata Track

A spectacular tomokanga was unveiled at the base of one of the Waikato’s most popular walking tracks over the weekend.

A joint venture between Waikato Tainui, the Department of Conservation, Waikato District Council and the Ngaruawahia Community Board saw the unveiling of a carved tomokanga (entryway) at the base of the Hakarimata Track off Brownlee Avenue in Ngaruawahia on Saturday morning.

Chairman of Waikato-Tainui tribal executive Te Arataura Rahui Papa says the Hakarimata walkway is a popular attraction so it’s wonderful to see a tomokanga depicting our tribal stories and histories.

“The tomokanga provides a unique Waikato-Tainui welcome to visitors when they arrive to Hakarimata as it depicts the Kiingitanga and its relationship with the Hakarimata, the environment and te ao Maori.”

Mr Papa says the carving of the tomokanga has taken more than a year to design, in consultation with the Office of the Maaori King, the Department of Conservation, Waikato District Council and the Ngaruawahia Community Board.

Department of Conservation Director of Operations, Hauraki-Waikato-Taranaki Region, David Speirs acknowledged the “value of working together with Waikato-Tainui and Waikato District Council to recognise this special place and in particular to protect the taonga which are the kauri of this forest”.

Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson says the tomokanga enhances the area even more after Council installed a new toilet block and carpark at Brownlee Avenue recently.

“Council is proud to support the installation of the tomokanga, which is another successful joint project with Waikato Tainui. We worked with iwi on the creation of the Taa Moko sculpture at the Kiingitanga Reserve several years ago,” Mayor Sanson says.

The Hakarimata Track has seen visitor numbers top 200,000 each year in recent times. Couple that with the cultural significance of the area and it was only right that a grand carving be installed to welcome both locals and visitors to the area.

The tomokanga, which was carved by Master Carver Inia Te Wiata, tells the story of the Kiingitanga which Ngaruawahia is the centre of. Installing the tomokanga and upgrading the Hakarimata Track has also meant the track was closed to the public for the week. The upgrades were made to safeguard local kauri from kauri dieback, a fungal disease caused by microscopic spores which are spread by soil movement.

The unveiling was attended by more than 100 people and dignitaries including Heeni Katipa nee Paki, who was representing Maaori King Tuheitia, DOC’s representatives David Speirs, Waikato Operations Manager, Ray Scrimgeour, and Mark Menzies, Recreation/Historic Ranger, Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson and Waikato District Councillors Janet Gibb, Eugene Patterson and Lisa Thomson.

The site was blessed before the unveiling by kaumatua Pokaia Nepia.