A new public square has opened outside the Britomart rail station in downtown Auckland today - laid with tens of thousands of pavers to depict a whāriki or welcome mat.
The square is named Te Komititanga, which means to mix and to merge in Māori.
It is the culmination of more than four years' work on the downtown section of the $4.4 billion City Rail Link, topping off work on dual new tunnels from Britomart, under the Commercial Bay tower and mall and partway up Albert St.
The square includes more than 137,000 individual pieces of basalt pavers laid to incorporate mana whenua narratives, including a whāriki designed by mana whenua weavers to depict a woven harakeke (flax) mat that greets visitors to Tāmaki Makaurau from the sea.
One of the weavers, Tessa Harris, of Ngai Tai Ki Tamaki, said a kuia working on the designs died about a month ago and it was nice to have her whanau at the opening.
"We designed it to be like it was woven...it was a huge privilege to be working on this," said Harris.
Other designs reference a meeting point of two waters, the Waitematā Harbour and Wai Horotiu, before the area was reclaimed.
As well as the mixing of people, the name Te Komititanga reflects the square's location where the waters of the Waitematā and Wai Horotiu, the stream that runs under Queen St into the harbour, merged.
The opening coincides with the first races for the America's Cup World Series drawing thousands of spectators to the new harbourside programme of works costing $350 million.
Mayor Phil Goff said Te Komititanga is a great new crossroads for Auckland where people will be able to enter and leave the city by ferry, bus and rail.
"It's part of the heart of our city, a place where people can enjoy traffic-free spaces, gather and meet with friends, look out over the harbour and visit the fantastic new places to shop and eat," he says.
"Together with the new harbourside park under construction and the reinvigoration of Quay St, this area will be world-class.
"It's great to open Te Komititanga today in time for summer. It will be a gathering place for Aucklanders and New Zealanders, and when our borders reopen, for our international visitors as well."
Transport Minister Michael Wood said the new public space is an exciting milestone for the City Rail Link that will deliver significant benefits.
"When complete in 2024, the CRL will move the equivalent of 16 lanes of motorway at peak times, helping to reduce congestion and emissions," Wood said.
The name Te Komititanga was gifted by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and City Rail Link's Mana Whenua Forum and adopted by the Waitematā Local Board last month.
Mana whenua blessed Te Komititanga at dawn before Wood and Goff officially cut the ribbon and welcomed Aucklanders to use the square.
CRL Ltd chairman Sir Brian Roche said: "When we put down our spades and shovels, CRL is determined to leave behind a better Auckland – above and below ground."
The opening of Te Komititanga's marks the end of the first stage of a two-stage programme of improvements in the area.
Stage Two includes works on sections of Tyler and Galway streets at Britomart and parts of Customs St, scheduled for completion by the middle of next year.
The Chief Post Office is planned to reopen next March.