Huia alight at Girls’ High


Huia were once a strik­ing songbird and now two sculp­tures of them form a gate­way to a place where high school stu­dents spread their wings.

The stylised steel birds ei­ther side of the gate to Palmer­ston North Girls’ High School’s Huia Cen­tre – the school’s hall and per­form­ing arts cen­tre at the end of Huia St off Fitzher­bert Ave – were de­signed last year as part of a school com­pe­ti­tion.

Two win­ning en­tries, sub­mit­ted by stu­dents Marino Te RataOwen and Leilani Niko, were amal­ga­mated into the fi­nal work.

Both were pleased with how their de­signs had been re­alised.

‘‘I was amazed at how beau­ti­ful they looked when they were un­veiled,’’ Leilani said.

‘‘It’s my first piece of pub­lic art­work, and there are go­ing to be more.’’

The two-sculp­ture in­stal­la­tion has been named Te Mokai a Tautu, or the pet of Tautu.

‘‘Tatau was a to­hunga who lived in the Tararua Ranges,’’ Leilani said.

‘‘Huia were easy to tame and be­came pets. [Tautu] used his bird as ames­sen­ger be­tween this world, Te Ao Ma¯rama, and the spir­i­tual world, Te Ao Wairua,’’ Marino said.

After the de­signs were com­bined, Leilani said they still had in­put into the process, and there was on­go­ing con­sul­ta­tion with Doug Bruhn at Ex­tol, who was re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing and in­stalling the pieces.

Ex­tinct early in the 20th cen­tury. the wa­haroa or gate­way, fea­tures male and fe­male huia. The male bird with the shorter beak found food and fed the fe­male through the in­cu­ba­tion and brood­ing pe­riod.

The huia were mounted on gateposts dec­o­rated with blue stepped tuku­tuku pat­terns, rep­re­sent­ing the steps to knowl­edge, achieve­ment and at­tain­ment.


A new wa­haroa or gate at Palmer­ston North Girls’ High School show­cases the ex­tinct huia, de­signed by Leilani Niko, 15, and Marino Te Rata-Owen, 15.

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