Kiekie for Conservation

Zealandia gifts kiekie to the nation through first-ever harvest.


Jim, Ellen and Dean stand on the lawn at Zealandia. Jim holds kiekie.
Jim Schuster, Ellen Andersen and Dean Whiting with kiekie from harvest. Photo: HNZPTexpand/collapse

This year will mark the 100-year anniversary of the opening of Matangireia, the former Māori Affairs Committee room at parliament.

The allocation of a room specifically for Māori members of parliament was the result of much effort early last century by Tā Apirana Ngata, Sir Maui Pōmare, Te Rangihiroa Sir Peter Buck, and Taurekareka Henare. Known then as the Native Affairs Committee room, it was opened in August 1922.

In preparation for the centenary, a conservation project began in May with a traditional Kawa Unu Whatu Mauri ceremony to prepare the room. The ceremony was undertaken by a group including mana whenua and descendants of original master carvers Te Kiwi Henare Mete Amohau and Te Ngaru Ranapia.

Conservation work will include specialist cleaning and some restoration of the carvings and nine tukutuku panels in the room. Sourcing kiekie (Freycinetia Banksia), the fibrous plant required for the tukutuku panel conservation, proved quite an extraordinary journey. A native climbing plant once quite common across both the North and South Islands, kiekie has diminished significantly, it has become so difficult to find that weavers often have to travel well away from their home areas to source it.

Local weavers knew of a large and beautiful kiekie plant at Zealandia Te Māra ā Tāne in Wellington.
Bright green kiekie grows over dark water at Zealandia.
A cascade of kiekie in pristine condition at Zealandia Te Māra ā Tane in Karori. Photo: HNZPTexpand/collapse

Local weavers knew of a large and beautiful Kiekie plant at Zealandia Te Māra ā Tāne in Wellington. Unfortunately, until last month the harvesting or removal of any plant material from within the sanctuary was prohibited. Fortunately, it was deemed appropriate to allow some harvesting and so a new policy was written and approved in time for the conservation project.

Chief Executive of Zealandia Te Māra ā Tāne Dr Danielle Shanahan described their support as ‘a gift to the nation’ as the Kiekie harvested from there will be used for the work being undertaken in the Matangireia room at parliament.

Importantly, the harvesting is beneficial to the plant. According to Jim Schuster, Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Pouarahi Traditional Arts, each of the heads which were broken off the plant during the harvest will produce two new ones. Jim Schuster is the son of master weaver Emily Schuster QSM OBE, who worked on an earlier conservation project in Matangireia.

- Niki Partsch