A nine metre high Pouwhenua (Maori carving) has been commissioned to mark the opening of a unique wildlife sanctuary on the iconic 18 hole Wairakei Golf Course north of Taupo.
The Pouwhenua which has been carved from an ancient Totara log will take pride of place at the entrance to the golf course in front of a new architecturally designed pro shop and sprig bar. The carving is being officially blessed by Tuwharetoa Kaumatua at a dawn ceremony on Friday March 11. The blessing will be followed by the official opening of the Wairakei Golf + Sanctuary project .
The blessing and official opening have been timed to coincide with staging of the NZPGA senior championship at the golf course on March 10,11,12. All proceeds from the tournament will go to the Breast Cancer Research Trust.
Three resident carvers at Wairakei Terraces – a local Maori tourism venture at Wairakei – and three Tainui carvers with affiliation to Ngati Tuwharetoa have spent the past four months working on the Pouwhenua. The carving was designed by one of the carvers Wikuki Kingi and features Tane Mahuta – God of the Forest – and 30 native birds that are perched on a vine of life that twists up the pole. The pole is topped by an imposing New Zealand eagle – Hokioi. The native eagle which is now extinct was the largest of its kind in the world.
Wairakei Terraces chief executive Jim Hill says the Totara log used for the carving comes from an ancient tree in the Pureora forest, north-west of Taupo, that had previously been felled. The tree was estimated to be around 1800 years old. In line with Tuwharetoa protocol the tree was blessed before being taken out and a new tree planted on the site. The carving is being worked on at Wairakei Terraces amid strict Tuwharetoa protocols. Women are not permitted to enter the immediate work area or touch the carving until the unveiling, when kuia (women) take on the traditional role of bringing new life to the Totara. The carvers are also charged with keeping themselves pure in mind and spirit while they are working on the carving.
Golf course owner Auckland businessman Gary Lane says the carving is a “magnificent work” that reflects the culture and ecology of the area.
Physical work on the multi million dollar sanctuary project got underway 18 months ago with construction of a two metre high predator fence around the perimeter of the 180 ha property. The five kilometre long Xcluder fence is specially designed to keep out predators like rats, mice, stoats, weasels, hedgehogs, feral cats and possums.
A new architecturally designed building at the entrance to the golf course accommodates the pro shop and cart shed along with a new sprig bar. A purpose built practice range that includes five target greens and a covered coaching facility has been developed within the golf course complex, on the site of the former car park and pro shop.
Around 25,000 native trees and five thousand exotics have been planted to encourage bird life and further enhance the surroundings.
Two hundred mixed colour pheasant have also been released on to the property.
A small herd of around 15 fallow deer and a stag are being reared on site, within a deer fenced area. The intention is to release them to roam freely on the golf course property within the next two years adding to the aesthetics of the course without having any major impact on the ecosystem.
Discussions are also underway with conservation agencies regarding the eventual release of some endangered species – like kiwi and brown teal.
The golf course was voted number one course in New Zealand in an industry survey that took account of ratings from golf professional and people in the golf travel industry. It was also rated number one by readers of New Zealand Golf magazine.