Te Waharoa – Gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park

Te Waharoa - Gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park
A distinctive landmark in Mārahau greets all visitors who approach the National Park from the South – a carved waharoa (entranceway). It tells the story of migration of the tūpuna (ancestors) of the people who live here today as tangata whenua in Te Tauihu (Top of the South Island).
At the start of the 19th Century a group of whānau and hapū (families) from Kāwhia and Taranaki were seeking a better life away from the pressures on land and resources in the North Island and made the courageous decision to leave in search of their needs for survival, land, water and food resources. The group from Kāwhia were the Ngāti Rārua, Ngāti Koata and Ngāti Toa Rangatira people from the Tainui waka. The group from Taranaki were the Ngāti Tama and Te Ātiawa people from the Tokomaru waka. Together, they left their homelands in the 1820’s and travelled South in search of a place to settle with more access to resources. This journey is depicted in the waharoa with the people in the waka and the maunga (mountains) showing where they came from. There were other Māori already settled in areas of Te Tauihu, but this new group of migrants arrived and by right of conquest and occupation the people of Ngāti Rārua and Te Ātiawa became the Manawhenua here in Mārahau and Motueka.
This blend of war and peace is represented in the carvings with Rongo-mā-Tāne, on the left, the atua (deity) of peace and cultivated food. Large areas of Mārahau were cultivated and an abundance of food resources were available here – this was the food basket of the tūpuna. There are many recorded battle sites in the area as it was highly contested as a valuable resource, the conflicts here are represented by Tūmatauenga, the atua of war, on the right. Underneath Rongo-mā- Tāne are two figures, these signify the Motueka and Riuwaka rivers, the two rivers that must be crossed to get to Mārahau. Underneath Tūmatauenga are carvings that depict the intricate caves that are under Piki-ki-runga (Tākaka Hill) these cave networks extend from the Riuwaka resurgence right through to Tākaka and Waikoropupū Springs. The figure in the mid- dle at the top is representative of Turangaapeke, a tupuna of both Ngāti Rārua and Te Ātiawa whānau in Motueka, this is also the name of the Wharenui at Te Āwhina Marae.


"The name Mārahau translates literally as windy garden, not just for its cultivated foods, as the whole area would have been a great kai (food) gathering area. The Tuangi (cockle) beds were abundant, the sea teeming with life and the forests and valleys full of birds.."

Te Waharoa - Gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park
- The waharoa that greets visitors to the Southern end of the National Park in Mārahau.

As visitors exit at this Southern end of the park, they will see carvings on the other side of this waharoa. This side of the Waharoa is telling a story of the natural elements that affect everything in this special place known as Mārahau (windy garden). Each morning Tama-nui-te-Rā rises in the East, in the centre, Te Ao (the clouds) are depicted. On the right is Tāwhirimātea (atua of the winds and storms) who brings the wind every afternoon in the summer months, which is renowned in this area.

On the left side is Tāne Mahuta (atua of the forest), a reminder of where you have been, or that you may be about to enter his domain. On the right side is Haumia-tiketike (atua of uncultivated plants): large areas of the Mārahau valley and what is now National Park was covered in forest where wildlife flourished and many plant species naturally grew – another valuable food resource for the Tūpuna. The name Mārahau translates literally as windy garden, not just for its cultivated foods, as the whole area would have been a great kai (food) gathering area. The Tuangi (cockle) beds were abundant, the sea teeming with life and the forests and valleys full of birds.

At the very bottom, left and right are two faces, these are the two sides of Papatūānuku (Mother Earth’s) face. We must always be mindful of where we step and to tread lightly as we walk over her, so future generations can enjoy these taonga (treasures), like the National Park, which are in our care as Kaitiaki (guardians) for today.

This carving was commissioned by Department of Conservation as part of a series of installations in the National Park to start to re-indigenise the space. The carver is Mark Davis, a Master Carver from Nelson, and the timber is Tōtara sourced from the West Coast. This narrative has been a collaboration between Manawhenua Iwi and Department of Conservation.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Scroll to Top