On a chilled winter day, the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Bay of Plenty community gathered to commemorate the mighty kauri tree in New Zealand’s Mural Town of Katikati.
Guests reflected in awe at a new two-story mural displaying a diverse history of the Kaimai Kauri while keeping warm with afternoon tea catered by Te Rereatukahia marae.
Painted on the Katikati i-SITE, one of the most visited buildings in the town, the mural called “Te Wao Tapunui a Tāne (The sacred domain of Tāne)” is bound to strike the eyes of thousands of visitors over its lifetime of 30 years.
Together with the talents of Shane Walker Artworks and the support of Open Air Arts, DOC Tauranga set out to pursue the oral history of tangata whenua and make the past come alive through art. Tributes to the bushmen and ancestors of the people of Katikati are also displayed within the mural thanks to the photos captured by Tudor Collins in the early 1900s.
DOC Community Ranger Tracy Mezger, who has overseen the project since its inception, says design and planning of the mural took over ten months.
“We had to have the right people on board to ensure an accurate and inspirational story was told. Hopefully we can begin to see a stronger local connection with the forest so the Kaimai kauri is protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy,” says Tracy Mezger.
“We are ensuring the Kaimai kauri, who stand tall, proud, and healthy within the forest, have a voice as powerful as the kings that they are.”
The mural provokes a call to action through storytelling, displaying how humans have realised the intrinsic value of these forest giants over centuries. Today, humans pose the biggest threat to their extinction with kauri dieback disease spreading rapidly through North Island forests on the footwear of trampers and hunters.
The mural is dedicated to the people of Te Rereatukahia, Tuapiro, and Otawhiwhi marae and the Katikati community.
The Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park is a kauri protection zone, meaning certain protocol is in place for visitors to the park.
Here’s a snippet on the mural’s story as told by DOC Iwi Ranger, Gavin Smith: Te Wao Tapunui a Tāne:
The gateway serves as a reminder for those of us who enter the sacred forest of Tāne, to do so with respect. A respect for the sacredness of the bush and the ancient trees that live there. In the Kaimai all have a duty to protect and respect the Kauri. We can do this by accepting the new hygiene practices of cleaning our footwear when entering and exiting the bush.
You should always:
- Use a hygiene station as instructed, if available
- Clean your gear: scrub and remove all soil before and after visiting forests from footwear and paws, gear, and equipment
- Stay on the track where possible.
The mural event and blessing was held on Friday 5 July 2019.