Pou Tiaki at Kura Tawhiti Castle Hill

Late September, just over an hour’s drive from Christchurch, a hardy crowd gathered at the spectacular and wind-swept location of Kura Tawhiti/Castle Hill to unveil three magnificent new pou whenua at the recently upgraded site.


Staff members stand beneath a pou at Kura Tawhiti.
Pou whenua at Kura Tawhiti/Castle Hill.expand/collapse

The name Kura Tāwhiti literally means “the treasure from a distant land”.

A long-awaited upgrade of the site is the result of a collaborative Treaty partner approach with the local Hapū, Te Ngāi Tūāhuririi, and Te Papa Atawhai Department of Conservation. There was also significant archaeological advice from Senior Archaeologist Frank van der Heijden and cultural support from Southern Pouarahi Nigel Harris, both of the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Canterbury West Coast team.

The upgrade includes the three new pou whenua, some beautifully carved kōhatu (stones), a new walking track, extensive strategic plantings, a significant shelter area and interpretation signage.

The new paths and information panels will help guide visitors on tikanga (correct protocols and practises) at the site – where previously it has been disrespected with behaviours like inappropriate toileting and graffiti on the rocks – and help preserve the rare plant life and ancient rock art that remains.

The new pou whenua, designs for the shelter, and information panels at Kura Tawhiti were created by master carvers Fayne Robinson (Ngāi Tahu) and Riki Manuel (Ngāti Porou).

The histories are from Ngāi Tahu, and Ngāi Tūāhuriri which is the hapū that descends from the ancestor Tūāhuriri and holds rangatiratanga over Kura Tawhiti. Tūrākautahi and Tane Tiki are both sons of Tūāhuriri and are represented as two of the three new pou whenua.

The third pou whenua represents Tawhitinui, who departed from Itaitewhenua (beyond Hawaiki) on the ancient waka Ārai Te Uru. As the waka travelled down the coast from Kaikōura to Moeraki, many of the passengers slipped overboard and swam ashore, among them Tawhitinui, Waimakariri and Tawera.

Waimakariri changed into a river,  Tawera became Puketeraki Mt Torless, and Tawhitinui became Kura Tawhiti.

Niki Partsch and Nigel Harris