Dignitaries including representatives of Maori King Tuheitia, kaumatua and kuia from across Tauranga Moana, and tangata whenua from Te Puna, gathered at Te Puna's Tutereinga marae on Saturday for the blessing of the marae's wharenui (sleeping house).
The blessing came several years after a small group of kaumatua and carvers from Tutereinga marae travelled to the Rotorua Arts & Craft Institute, now known as Te Puia, to seek guidance from master carver Clive Fugil over carving 38 panels, ranging from 2.1m to 5.2m in height, inside the marae's wharenui.
The fruits of that visit and the subsequent years of work under the guidance of Mr Fugil were there for all to see during Saturday's blessing. Simon Madjwick, one of the main carvers involved, saw the carvings as a collection of stories that connected the past to the present and beyond.
The carvings recorded how the local Pirirakau people connected to the rest of Aotearoa.
This is done by the carvings depicting the Rangatira or captains of each waka that connect to Pirirakau, while the back wall is dedicated to the inter-connection of local families.
A local weaver was impressed by the depth of detail and intricate art work in the carvings.
"The connecting process has already begun as the carvings themselves seem to take on a story telling role of their own.
"We now have our own museum, library and art gallery all in one," she said.