Te Wai Horotiu

Fort Street West, Queen Street, Aotea Square and Aotea Centre, and Myers Park

The Queen Street of today is our ‘golden mile’, a single dominant street slicing through the middle of Auckland’s city centre where business and commerce mingle with retail, hospitality, and a thriving residential population.

The valley on which Queen Street was built was historically known for the local stream, Te Wai Horotiu (the water of Horotiu). It ran down from the Karangahape ridge towards the sea, and still flows beneath Queen Street to this day.

Horotiu is the legendary taniwha (guardian spirit) believed to live in the stream. Te Wai Horotiu was important to local iwi (tribes) providing food, bathing and ceremonial resources, and papakāinga (settlements) were located along the stream.

Wayne Youle (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whakaeke, Pākehā)
Moana-whenua, 2011
Photo by Marlaina Key
Fort Street West

Moana-whenua lies at the demarcation line of the original foreshore where the moana (sea) and whenua (land) once met. The 22-meter-long text-based work is carved into the granite of the pavement and embedded with resin and glass aggregate lettering.

In this artwork, Youle has chosen te reo Māori (Māori language) to highlight the links between history, place and landscape. Wayne has a bicultural heritage which he likes to reflect in his work.

It was commissioned by Auckland Council for the Fort Street redevelopment project. The Council’s Public Art team leads the development of art in public places across the Auckland region. They deliver innovative and high-quality public art projects while also managing existing works.

Fred Graham (Ngāti Korokī Kahukura)
Kaitiaki II, 2009
Photo by Barbara Holloway
80 Queen Street

Kaitiaki II (guardian) is a sculpture cast in stainless steel, which represents a traditional anchor stone and stands guard at one of the most prominent intersections in the city centre.

Once an estuarine river valley, this site holds great significance for local iwi (tribes). The maritime theme of the sculpture recalls the waves that would have once lapped at the shores here.

The original foreshore was significant to Ngāti Whātua and Ngāti Paoa as a waka (canoe) landing site and place of much commerce. This whatu (anchor) stands here to remind us of the site’s significance as the harbour’s original foreshore and the path of the former Waihorotiu stream.

Fred Graham (Ngāti Korokī Kahukura)
Te Waka Taumata o Horotiu, 2008
Photo by Marlaina Key
Corner Queen Street and Swanson Street

Waka Taumata, or resting waka (canoe) is in the form of taurapa (stern post) and tauihu (prow). The tauihu takes the shape of a resting bird; its beak pointing back towards its tail.

Many ancestral canoes lead the settlement of this area – Tainui being the most prominent. Hence the Māori proverb ‘Mōkau ki runga Tāmaki ki raro’ which defines the tribal boundaries of the Tainui canoe. Mōkau in the south referred to as the prow of the canoe, and Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) in the north being the taurapa.

The use of corten (weathering) steel gives the illusion that the taurapa has been here for many years and the city has grown up around it.

Selwyn Muru (Ngāpuhi, Te Aupōuri)
Te Waharoa o Aotea, 1990
Photo by Marlaina Key
Aotea Square, 291-297 Queen Street

Waharoa is a seven-meter-tall gateway which stands at the entrance to Aotea Square, transforming it into a marae atea (courtyard of a Māori meeting house).

It provides a cultural welcome to manuhiri (visitors) to the square.

Lisa Reihana (Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi, Ngāi Tū)
Ihi, 2020
Photo by Marlaina Key
Te Pokapū Aotea Centre Foyer, 50 Mayoral Drive, Aotea Square

Ihi explores the mother/son relationship between the gods, Tāne and his mother Papatūānuku, through the separation that brought the world of Te Ao Mārama (light) into existence. ‘In the beginning, Ranginui (sky father) and Papatūānuku (earth mother) were locked in a tight embrace. Their sons and daughters dwelt in the darkness between them. Frustrated by this confinement, their son Tāne decided to use his powerful legs to prise them apart, letting light between his parents and life to flourish. Tāne then surveys the view he has created - a cosmos of stars and moody brooding skies.’

This giant scale work plays out on 65 square metre digital screens, enthralling viewers with the traditional Māori origin story of Ranginui and Papatūānuku.

Paratene Matchitt (Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngāti Porou)
Untitled, 1990
Photo by Marlaina Key
Aotea Centre, Box Cafe & Bar, 50 Mayoral Drive, Aotea Square

This huge metal and wood sculpture, although untitled, could be summed up by the Māori word manaaki which means hospitality.

The artist’s interpretation of the work is that the powerful pieces of timber at the bottom of the kōwaiwai (mural) represent the people of today, while the stainless-steel forms at the top are their Māori and Pākehā (European people) ancestors.

The large central diamond shape symbolises hospitality. It links the past and present, and contains the hearts, moons, stars, and crosses which are a signature feature of Matchitt’s work.

Lisa Reihana (Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi, Ngāi Tu)
Rangimārie - Last Dance, 2011
Photo by Marlaina Key
Q Theatre, 305 Queen Street

Commissioned by Q Theatre and Reo Whakahaere, this mathematically intensive installation was designed to take tāniko (finger weaving) into the third dimension. With more than 50,000 tiny pieces, a huge communal effort was needed for its construction.

The work honours the memory of Rangimārie, a noted mid-17th century dancer and choreographer of the Kaipara and Tāmaki Makaurau regions and a descendent of the Te Taoū and Ngā Oho iwi.

Rangimārie - Last Dance depicts a historical event which took place on Maungakiekie. Rangimārie is represented by the central red diamond. The black pyramids are symbolic for Kaipara and Tāmaki iwi. The Niho Taniwha triangular pattern is seen in tukutuku panels in meeting houses. It is also referenced in kapa haka (Māori cultural) performances. It means the ‘serpent’s tooth’ and links with the local taniwha (water spirit) and the mauri (life force) of the Waihorotiu stream running below.

Rachel Walters (Pākehā)
Hau te Kapakapa / The Flapping Wind, 2011-2013
Photo by Marlaina Key
Myers Park, entry at 381 Queen Street

Walters has created her three bird sculptures from bronze with some paint detailing. Her intention was to make them attractive to children and a little humorous but also to make a statement about the rubbish which pollutes the natural habitat of our native birds.

Hau te Kapakapa / The Flapping Wind depicts New Zealand native birds ‘hiding in plain sight’ under a banana box or inside bags. Rachel speaks of the title of the work as “a poetic way to describe birds flying and a place that is dense with birds flapping”.

The work celebrates native birds and reminds us that they were once abundant in this area, when the Waihorotiu stream ran above the ground.

Hone Tūwhare (Ngāpuhi descent with connections to Ngāti Korokoro, Ngāti Tautahi, Te Uri-ō-Hau, Te Popoto, Ngāti Hine and Ngāti Kurī hapū)
Horotiu Haiku, 2017
Photo by Marlaina Key
Myers Park, entry at 381 Queen Street

The Myers Park paddling pool, built in 1915, stood on this site – a popular feature with children for many years. In 2016 the new splash pad was created with care and consideration to preserve many of the heritage features of the pool and its original concrete.

Children now have a refreshed play area to keep them cool on hot Auckland days. The splash pad has a poem inscribed in it by renowned poet Hone Tūwhare, “STOP your snivelling Horotiu, come rain, hail and flood-water, laugh again”.

It is about Horotiu the taniwha (water spirit) that lived in the (now buried) Waihorotiu stream which had its source at the top of Myers Park gully. (Hone Peneamine Anatipa Te Pona Tuwhare, 1922–2008).