More than 200 people braved the early morning winter weather to witness the historic unveiling of 18 pou, carved monuments, which stand at the entrance to Hastings Civic Square.
The pou each represent an ancestor from 18 marae around the Heretaunga district and were revealed to the public for the first time at a dawn ceremony yesterday near the Hastings Library and Hastings City Art Gallery.
Karakia and dedication speeches for each pou were read out by a representative from each of the 18 marae; a process which began at 5am and concluded 7am.
A light at the base of each pou came on to illuminate the face of the carved figure in the darkness, as the karakia for each took place. Most being in Maori with some in English.
Hawke's Bay Today understands the final pou was lifted into place at Civic Square about 3am, just a few hours ahead of the dawn ceremony.
Among the guests at the ceremony was a group from Waimana, Tuhoe, where the timber for the pou had been sourced.
It included kaumatua Hakeke McGarvey, who originally gifted the totara transformed into the pou.
It was two years ago when he attended a marae meeting in Waimana where representatives of Ngati Kahungunu put a request in for timber for the pou carvings.
''About a month before that meeting, I had dug out of a river near my home about 30 totara.
''We looked at how big the logs were and decided to keep them as we thought they could be used for something.
''So when I heard about the project by Kahungunu, to carve the pou for each marae, I said to them at the marae meeting, I've got the totara at home.''
The two groups came to an agreement and the timber was gifted to the project on behalf of Tuhoe, to Ngati Kahungunu. The dawn ceremony was the first time Mr McGarvey had seen the timber transformed into the carved figures.
'' And I must say I am quite taken back this morning to come here and look at all of the pou with the karakia, whaikorero, whakapapa and genealogy which dates right back in time and then bringing it all forward to the present.
'' I believe the totara might be 1000 years old. So 1000 years ago our ancestors were talking to these trees and now you and I are talking to the same trees.
'' That to me makes the pou a significant taonga that belongs not only to Kahungunu, Tuhoe, but also to the whole world.''
Mr McGarvey said he liked the thought that the pou, representing the ancestors, would be available for the public to visit every day.
'' People can wander in here every day and talk to their ancestors and read their stories.''
Bridge Pa man Thompson Hokianga was one of the carvers who worked on the pou project, specifically on the figure of Rahunga i Te Rangi, an ancestor connected to Mangaroa Marae.
'' I hope this will be a place where all of the marae involved in the project can come together and rekindle their ties of days gone by.
'' It will be a place where each marae and hapu will be able to understand their connections.
'' I also hope the pou will stand in a place that will bring all people together, to see unity and I think you are definitely seeing unity this morning.''
Mr Thompson helped coordinate the team of carvers working on the project at the former National Library building, renamed Tuaka, behind the Hastings District Council's office on South Hampton St East.
'' It's been a long time since carvers of Kahungunu have been able to come together and work on a project.
'' Another highlight is being able to work under master carvers, Taka Walker and Takirirangi Smith.''
Mr Hokianga said he hoped the carvers could continue to work on similar projects at Tuaka in the future, or perhaps the building could be used for another Maori arts and community projects.
'' We had a lot of people come in to Tuaka while we were carving to look at the work we were doing and ask questions.
'' There's been a lot of curiosity and, certainly for the carvers, we are entertaining the idea of putting another project on the table as a possibility.''
The history associated with each pou would be recorded on to story boards and fitted to each carved figure in the coming months.
The project had been the work of Nga Marae o Heretaunga and the Hastings District Council.