Flanked by a warrior party and led by a police escort, a massive 26-tonne Maori carving has made its way to the Rotorua International Stadium in a spectacular procession, which caught the attention of tourists and school students alike.
Children from schools and kindergartens along the route watched in awe as the carving, carried on the back of two trucks, moved slowly through the streets of suburban Rotorua from Te Puia, where it had been carved, to the stadium. There it will form the stage frontage for Te Matatini, the national kapa haka festival being held in Rotorua from February 20 to 24.
The mahau, or facade, will have a 30m paepae (base), 7m amoamo (side carvings) and maihi (barge boards) 22m long.
About 50 Maori warriors performed a rousing haka as they accompanied the carving to its new location, spanning the width of the road at some points as it went along Springfield Rd.
Groups of students from Otonga Rd Primary School came out to watch it pass.
A large crowd had gathered at Te Puia to farewell the carving as cranes hoisted the massive structure onto the trucks.
Te Puia chief executive Tim Cossar said it was the largest wooden carving in New Zealand.
About 20 carvers - the entire Carving School, including students and tutors - had been involved in creating the native timber mahau.
Only native woods had been used, including a huge piece of kauri which was 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 been done inside the carving school and outside under cover during the past few months.
"Over the past week, we've been working with engineers to prepare the pieces for transportation, with cranes being used to manoeuvre the works on to several large trucks."
Engineers will erect the mahau structure before Te Matatini begins in 12 days.
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