The boundaries of the Tongariro National Park are soon to be marked with a dozen pouwhenua.

It's an idea Whakapapa Village resident Shane Isherwood has had for more than 20 years and finally becoming a reality at a cultural hub in Whakapapa Village.

Isherwood said he wanted people to understand and recognise the wairua - the spirit or soul - of Tongariro National Park.

"It's been on my mind for years and I guess what influenced it, even more, was the rubbish I would see in the park every day," he said.


"Maybe, just maybe, if people knew where they were, in a special area, maybe they wouldn't chuck that bottle out the window, or the rubbish."

The 12 carved pouwhenua would be cast in concrete or steel and then placed in pairs on several roads leading into the World Heritage Park.

Meanwhile, the wooden originals would be displayed at the Cultural Hub in Whakapapa - out of the harsh elements.

Isherwood said the pouwhenua would be equally important for tourists and Māori - identifying iwi boundaries. As a Māori, he considered it important to know where the iwi boundaries were.

"I'm hoping that, once it gets going, other iwi will buy into it and start doing the same for their boundaries around the country," he said. "[But] you know, I don't want to start another Maori land-war.

"I think as Māori, it's important for us to know when we've gone into another Iwi area. Once you go over to their area, the koha change, the rules change, you're on their turf so you have more respect for where you are and what you do, and I think it's important for all of us."

And for international tourists, watching the carvers shape the ancient logs was also something new and unique.

"To see this made and the traditions carried on now - it's marvelous that their heritage is not lost," Australian visitor Alison Dodd said.


Dutch tourist, Margriet Chereau bought a painting to remind her of the experience.

Carving artist, Tururangi Rowe said most tourists wanted to know the meaning of the tongue poking out, and he has a humorous answer: "[To] eat you!

"But yeah, it's cool interacting with all the tourists because that's what it all about - sharing our art with the world.

"You know this place is the World Heritage Park and the world comes here. So what better way than to share our mahi and our art style with everyone?"

"That's what a lot of our sacred places are missing is this, the stories" Rowe said.

"[Tourists] come here but they don't know where they are. They know they are on a mountain but what is it all about?

"In the old days, [Māori] didn't really come on the mountain, it was too sacred, it was like a big god.

"So our people used to wear ferns above their eyes so they couldn't see the mountain.

"But now, since colonisation has happened, we have to play a balance, so we have to come up here and kaitiaki our mountain," Rowe said.

The four carvers were creating a legacy inspired by their ancestors and it was the culmination of a lifelong dream for Isherwood.

"It's very emotional. I saw these come in as just logs and I've seen them coming to life every day, and now they're alive," he said.

"This one probably lay in the bush for 100 years, now he's going to stand tall and proud. It is alive and it's great to see."

The project has been funded with help from Genesis Energy and the government but more funding and sponsorship was needed to keep the project going.

The team behind the project have set up a Facebook Group, Nga Pou O Tongariro and hoped to continue, with talk of building a new cultural hub in the future.

Made with funding from