Maori King unveils airport tomokanga (carved gateway)

20 October 2008

This morning Auckland Airport's chairman Tony Frankham and Maori King Te Arikinui Kiingi Tuheitia took part in a dawn unveiling and blessing of a tomokanga (carved gateway) in the new pier at the airport's international terminal.

The magnificent tomokanga provides a uniquely kiwi welcome for international travellers when they arrive in Auckland. Standing 2.8m high and 6m wide, the carving symbolises a spiritual portal from one realm to another, a journey from the dark (the outside world) into the light (world of the living).

It has been four and half months in the making, with five carvers and one weaver all of Tainui decent working on the project from a workshop in Ngaruawahia. The 6.6 cubic metres of timber used in the carvings is swamp kauri and totara sourced from the Te Tara o Te Ika and Pouakani.

Tainui's head carver Warren McGrath said the inspiration behind the magnificent artefact comes from travel and migration themes, related to the comings and goings of an airport.

The official unveiling of the carving was attended by 80 invited guests and led by the Maori King with Kaumatua performing a special karakia as the official party approached the artwork.

The carving is located in a new $50 million international terminal pier at Auckland Airport. The new international pier was officially opened by the Rt. Hon Helen Clark on 10 October and will open for travellers tomorrow on 21 October. It has been designed with expansion in mind and to accommodate the next generation of larger sized planes, including the Airbus A380.

The completion of the new pier ends a major construction phase at the international terminal. In April 2008 a new arrivals area opened, greatly increasing the facilitation of arriving travellers, followed by the completion of the expanded border agency screening hall in July.

The arrival and departure levels of the building are adorned with touches of Kiwi flavour to welcome and farewell both New Zealanders and overseas travellers. Specially selected imagery of unique wildlife and plant life brings the great outdoors to life and hints at just some of what New Zealand has to offer.