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Taupo’s Mine Bay Māori rock carvings add depth to tourism message

The story of Lake Taupo’s Mine Bay Māorirock carvings features in the latest move by Tourism New Zealand to give international visitors more access to our history and culture.

Tourism New Zealand’s Marketing Director Andrew Fraser says the stories being developed as part of a refreshed 100% Pure New Zealand campaign reflect a growing desire from visitors to know more about our history and people. 

He said: “By telling those stories as authentically as possible, we are adding real depth and meaning to the 100% Pure campaign.”  ‘Stories of Aotearoa’ is a series of articles and short films on newzealand.com that delve into the country’s history and legends. 

Thousands of international visitors from around the world make the journey on Lake Taupo to view the Mine Bay Māori rock carvings and now the story behind the carvings is being told through the eyes of the master carver Matahi Whakataka Brightwell. 

Labour Weekend 2016 will mark 40 years since Matahi’s grandmother, Te Huatahi Susie Gilbert, asked him to sculpt the likeness of high priest and navigator Ngatoroirangi on the cliffs at Mine Bay but the carvings carry a heritage that goes back 27 generations. 

Matahi says that when he spent four years working on the carvings, he never thought it would become an iconic tourist attraction that is one of the most photographed sites in the country. “If I was a tourist coming here I would want to understand how Māori see that artwork and to appreciate our heritage. I want them to understand they are looking at an 800-year-old event. I just say soak it all in and if you feel connected, well I’m happy about that and if you’re respectful of my culture, I’ll feel happy about that as well.” 

Learn more about the Mine Bay Māori rock carvings and watch the video here.