Ngā Tapuwae o te Kāhui Maunga – Pukeahu Park

Sculpture of woman wearing kaitaka (cloak)

Māori have long associations with Pukeahu Mount Cook, and these are reflected in the plants, artwork and objects that comprise Ngā Tapuwae o te Kāhui Maunga (the footsteps of the ancestors)

Te Āti Awa are the iwi (tribe) with mana whenua (authority over the land) status in Wellington, Lower Hutt, and Upper Hutt. They come from the early Kāhui Maunga (mountain people), who settled on the slopes of Mount Taranaki. In Māori tradition, one of the many ways tribal relationships are traced is through stories based on landmarks such as mountains, rivers, hills, rocks, and special places. The Kāhui Maunga story encompasses the mountains of Taranaki, Ruapehu and Tongariro.


The engravings on the Mount Taranaki rock symbolise the sun, which rises over Mount Hikurangi in the east and sets over Taranaki in the west. This connects the two mountains and the history of their peoples.

The Southern Cross stars are the navigational stars from the Australian flag and connect this country with Australia. The four sentinels were inspired by the imposing Paritutū – the remains of an extinct volcano at the western end of Ngāmotu Beach in New Plymouth. These sentinels oversee the arrival of visitors from the four corners of the world.


In Māori tradition, Tongariro is the warrior mountain. The seven warriors on the Mount Tongariro rock represent descendants of the seven waka (canoes) in which many of the ancestors of Māori are said to have arrived in New Zealand: AoteaKurahaupōMataatuaTainuiTākitimu, Te Arawa and Tokomaru. Descendants of the occupants of these canoes intermarried with members of earlier tribes and, later, with European settlers. They also represent the people who died in intertribal and colonial wars.


For the Kāhui Maunga tribes, Mount Ruapehu is the matua or parent mountain. The images on the rock represent the passage of time from the beginning, as our land rose out of the sea, to the present.

The wall

The wall behind the rocks is made of both new and historical bricks. The historical bricks were made in the prison on Pukeahu in which many Māori from Parihaka were held. These brave men were determined to hold onto their ancestral lands. While the land that was taken has not been returned, some compensation for its loss has been received.


The words ‘maungaronga ki runga i te whenua’ (peace across the land) is a blessing from Taranaki tribes on the eastern wall. The phrase ‘te hokowhitu a tu’ (the 140 – literally, the twice 70 – warriors of the god of war Tū-mata-uenga) was the motto of the Native Contingent and the Pioneer Battalion in the First World War. The third phrase, the best-known line from the marching song of 28 (Māori) Battalion during the Second World War, ‘ake ake kia kaha e’ (stand strong forever), is inscribed on the western wall of the gardens.

Paving tiles

The paving tiles are in the poutama pattern, which symbolises the stairway to the spirit world.

Hinerangi sculpture

The main element in this bronze sculpture by Darcy Nicholas is the kaitaka (cloak). The symbols of the sun, moon, stars, and mountains represent family, home and guardianship.

The tāniko at the bottom of the kaitaka represents the land. The tassels are tears for those lost in the intertribal and colonial wars, and in wars across the world. The poutama designs on the cloak symbolise the pathways our soldiers took in their journey to the spirit world. Some of the pathways are deliberately broken to represent the harshness of war.

Hinerangi is the mother, the sister, the wife, the woman who witnesses the death and destruction of wars. Her kākahu, designed with the guidance of Veranoa Puketapu Hetet, has symbols of the land, the mountains (volcanic mountains are the children of papatūānuku, but in art also symbolise whānau, hapū and iwi). The cloak also has symbols of the sun, moon and stars.

Darcy Nicholas

Hinerangi faces the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, who she is calling home, and Aoraki (Mt Cook) in the South Island. In Māori tradition, when people of significance pass on, their spirit traverses the ancestral hills and mountains to pay homage to those remaining in the physical world before returning and departing to the north.

More information

New Zealand's Internal Wars - NZHistory

Māori in the NZEF – NZHistory

Māori and the Second World War – NZHistory

Māori War Effort Organisation – NZHistory

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