Auckland Domain

Today the Auckland Domain is home to the Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira, the Wintergardens (a complex of glasshouses and courtyards) and sports and recreational reserves. It has many walking paths providing an escape from the nearby urban centre.

The Domain contains all of the explosion crater and most of the surrounding tuff ring of the Pukekawa volcano. Māori called the area Pukekawa and the present hill is the remains of the former volcanic cone. It was a useful vantage point for early Māori who settled here.

After the inter-tribal musket wars, peace was made with Ngāpuhi in 1823. The peace was cemented by the marriage of Pōtatau Te Wherowhero’s brother, Te Kati, to Matire Toha of Ngāpuhi. Te Wherowhero (the first Māori king) gave the existing name, Pukekawa (which referred to the sourness of soil) new meaning as, ‘the hill of bitter memories’, to commemorate those who died.

Wiremu (Piri) Te Ranga Poutapu, MBE (Ngāti Koroki) Allen Nopera (Ngāti Whātua, Te Uri o Hau, Ngāti Kahu)
Pukekaroa Carved Ancestors, 1940s-2017
Photo by Marlaina Key
Auckland Domain, behind Wintergarden, Parnell

These carvings protect a sacred tōtara (native tree) planted in 1940 by Princess Te Kirihaehae Te Puea Hērangi, a central figure in establishing the Kīngitanga movement. The Princess was the great granddaughter of Pōtatau Te Wherowhero the first Māori King (iwi/hapū - Waikato, Ngāti Mahuta). The Domain has special significance for the Kīngitanga (the Māori King Movement) as it commemorates where Te Wherowhero once lived.

Princess Te Puea Hērangi was the first patron of the Māori Women’s Welfare League and Dame Commander of the British Empire, Tainui iwi (tribe) of the Waikato, 1883–1952.

The 1940s figures by master carver Poutapu (1905-1975) depict the children of Ranginui and Papatūānuku (the nation’s first parents). They were restored in 2017 by master carver Nopera, sponsored by the Tainui tribe.

Fred Graham (Ngāti Korokī Kahukura)
Kaitiaki (Guardian), 2004
Photo by Marlaina Key
Auckland Domain, Parnell

Graham’s Kaitiaki (guardian) sculpture, made of steel plate, is a black hawk looming large over the Domain. The kāhu pōkere (black hawk) is a kaitiaki (guardian) that features in the oral histories of Ngāti Whātua. In Māori lore manu (birds) were the tangata whenua (first inhabitants) of the land of Aotearoa (New Zealand). Kaitiaki looks across to a small scoria cone west of the museum, the site of the Pukekaroa Carved Ancestors.

The Outdoor Sculpture 2001 Incorporated Society, which included Fred Graham, developed the idea of a sculpture walk in the Auckland Domain. Eight sculptures were installed in the Domain between 2004 and 2005. Edmiston Trust supported this artist led initiative, assisted by the New Zealand Lotteries Board Millennium Fund and Auckland City Council.

Brett Graham (Ngāti Koroki Kahukura)
Whaowhia, 2007
Photo by Marlaina Key
Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira, Auckland Domain, southern entrance, Parnell

Whaowhia is the name given to the two formidable granite urns – one white and one black – standing guard at the southern entrance of Auckland Museum. Whaowhia represent pātaka mātauranga (knowledge storehouse). They reflect the museum’s role as preserver and protector of the nation’s taonga (cultural treasure).

Each urn’s surface is decorated with carvings that symbolise objects and collections held within the museum. At night, each urn emits a shaft of light to acknowledge the role of the museum as a war memorial and place of learning.

The artist has used layer upon layer of stone to symbolise the museum’s Māori title ‘Paenga Hira’, which refers to the Ngāti Whātua practice of marking boundaries with basalt mounds.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira, 1929
Photo by Marlaina Key
Auckland Domain, Parnell | Open 7 days

The Museum protects and cares for an outstanding collection of Māori taonga (treasures) with more than 1000 displayed in the main Māori galleries: He Taonga Māori (Māori Court) and Te Ao Tūroa (Māori Natural History).

These taonga are the ancestral representations of all the major tribes of Aotearoa. The taonga provide descendants with tangible links to their ancestral landscapes, history and people that came before them. They embody spiritual power measured in terms of mana (ancestral authority), tapu (restriction from everyday being) and kōrero (associated narratives).

The museum’s Māori name translates as Tāmaki (Auckland), the net of Maki. Paenga means to layout ceremonially, heap together on a marae and a reference to those fallen in battle. Hira means great, numerous, abundant, important, of consequence.


Acknowledgements: Pukekawa Auckland Domain
Ngā mihi nui mo te tautoko me awhina ō tēnei kaupapa.,
Photo by Marlaina Key

Curator - Olivia Haddon, (Ngāti Manuhiri)
Editor Producer - Barbara Holloway
Photographer - Marlaina Key
Designer - Michelle Ardern

Rhoda Fowler (Ngāi Te Rangi)
Mei Hill (Ngāti Whātua)
Nikora Wharerau (Ngāti Hine Phil Wihongi, Ngāti Hine)
Natalie Hansby
Deborah White ONZM

Thanks to the Auckland City Centre Targeted Rate