A procession of a different kind will be taking place on the streets of Rotorua tomorrow morning, when a 26-tonne Maori carving will be transported to the Rotorua International Stadium for Te Matatini.
The carving is a mahau, or facade, which will form the stage frontage for Te Matatini, the national kapa haka festival in Rotorua between February 20-24. The mahau will have a 30m paepae (base), 7m amoamo (side carvings) and each maihi (barge board) will be 22m long.
The carving's procession, accompanied by a group of Maori warriors, will leave Te Puia at 10am tomorrow, travelling left out of Te Puia into Hemo Rd, right into Old Taupo Rd, and left into Springfield Rd to the stadium.
Te Puia chief executive Tim Cossar said he hoped the public would watch and support the carving's procession.
"This is the largest wooden carving in New Zealand, and most of us will not see another piece like it in our lifetimes - let alone its procession from our place, Te Puia, to its 2013 Te Matatini home.
"The mahau is incredibly impressive and it will forever be an important part of our country's history. It is an excellent example of the skill, knowledge and craftsmanship that exists at NZMACI, helping to continue the practice of traditional Maori arts and crafts, which is its mandate under legislation."
About 20 carvers - the entire Carving School, including students and tutors - have been involved in creating the native timber mahau at Te Puia. The wood that has been used is all native timbers, including a huge piece of kauri, which has been carbon-dated at 4500 years old.
New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute director Karl Johnstone said the sheer size of the carving meant its creation and transportation had been a major logistical exercise.
"Carving has taken place both inside the carving school, as well as outside under cover over the past few months.
"Over the past week, we have been working with engineers to prepare the pieces for transportation, with cranes being used to manoeuvre the works on to several large trucks. The mahau will travel to the stadium on the trucks, accompanied by a group of Maori warriors and police vehicles."
Engineers will erect the mahau structure before Te Matatini begins on February 20.
"This has been a significant project for NZMACI, demonstrating the skill and expertise of our carvers on a scale like no other. It has fully represented the legacy of the school, which was first legislated in 1926 under the auspices of Sir Apirana Ngata," Mr Johnstone said.
"The mahau connects Maori performing arts and material culture, and this is just one of a number of projects that form part of our contribution to ensure our culture, traditions and art forms live on in modern Aotearoa."
The public can see the mahau at the NZMACI Carving School (Te Wananga Whakairo Rakau) at Te Puia between 6.30pm and 8pm today.