Between 80 and 100 people gathered on a crisp, spring dawn yesterday to welcome eight more pou to the Celestial Star Compass at Waitangi Regional Park.

It was another step in a four-year journey to install solstice rocks and 32 carved pou at the 50m-wide site, part of an ongoing transformation of the park that's included new wetland areas, pathways and plantings.

Atea a Rangi Educational Trust, members of the waka Te Matau a Maui and Hawke's Bay Regional Council had collaborated on the project, and Te Matau a Maui chairman Phillip Smith said there had been a lot of other support.

"It's been really good - we've had a lot of local businesses and councils who have supported it well, as well as other funding agencies."


Yesterday's opening brought the number of pou to 24, and four more solstice rocks were placed marking the northern and southernmost limits of sunrises in the east and sunsets in the west.

The four kainga and four ngoi pou unveiled were used to mark the rising and setting points of the stars, sun and moon to navigate waka on the open ocean.

Mr Smith was one of a team of carvers, including head carvers Nathan Foote and Phil Belcher, who created the pou.

He said that he and Paora Puketapu, Te Kaha Hawaikirangi, Deon Wong and Rangitane Taurima were novices when they started the work one and a half years ago, the ornate carvings created from old power poles.

The first of the carvings were installed in December last year, timed to pinpoint the summer solstice when the sunset and sunrise were visible on the horizon from the star compass.

"For everyone this has been awesome, being under Nathan and Phil's guidance we have been able to put up some things that the guys are proud of."

For students of traditional navigation, the Celestial Star Compass had provided a valuable educational tool, and also a way for all people to get in touch with the seasons and understand more about their relationship to the sun, moon and stars.

The remaining eight pou will be placed in time for this year's summer solstice in December, as well as a waharoa (gateway).

Over winter, volunteers have been planting the surrounding area, co-ordinated by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, in addition to the wetlands, new pathways, story boards and a new carpark that had been built.