A Whangarei master carver and his son have been selected to take part in a project bringing the art of carving to New Zealand's remotest — and coldest — outpost.

Tewarihi Hetaraka, who is of Ngāti Wai descent, and his son, Poutama Hetaraka, who is Ngāti Wai and Ngāi Tahu, travelled to Christchurch yesterday in the first stage of a plan to install a carving at Scott Base in Antarctica.

Tewarihi Hetaraka said they would meet Ngāi Tahu representatives today to discuss what form the carving would take, such as a pou or an entranceway to the base. They are due back in Whangarei later this week.

Poutama Hetaraka is due to travel to the frozen continent in February next year to complete and install the pou, which will mark the 2017 declaration of a 1.6 million square kilometre marine protected area in the Ross Sea.


The father-son carving team will be joined in the project by Ngāi Tahu master carver Fayne Robinson and his teina (younger counterpart), James York.

Poutama Hetaraka, 32, has carved all his life but took up toi whakairo (the art of carving) in earnest after returning from Australia two years ago.

The carving project is a collaboration between Manaaki Whenua-Landcare Research and Niwa with support from Antarctica New Zealand.

Manaaki Whenua ecologist Priscilla Wehi said the kaupapa was the transfer of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) around kaitiakitanga (guardianship) to scientific settings.

"The Ross Sea ecosystem in Antarctica is a delicate interweaving of many species, and it really is up to us to protect it from over-exploitation," she said.

"I'm excited to see how our carvers will create a lasting expression of kaitiakitanga values that speak to all New Zealanders. This melding together of art and science from an indigenous perspective is a wonderful start for the marine protected area."

It won't be the first Māori carving in Antarctica — a 2m-tall pouwhenua carved by Robinson has overlooked Scott Base since 2013.

The Ross Sea Marine Protected Area was created by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and driven largely by New Zealand scientists, conservation groups and government departments.


The carving project is part of Antarctica New Zealand's Community Engagement Programme.