Our lobby carving
On this page you can learn about the carvings and sculptures in our Wellington office lobby and what they symbolise.
The lobby of our Wellington office is a physical manifestation of the Tāne Mahuta narrative. We have adopted this narrative to help explain our role as the kaitiaki (guardians) of New Zealand’s financial system.
The Tāne Mahuta story
Our new lobby brings the story of Tāne Mahuta to life.
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand – Te Pūtea Matua is the kaitiaki (guardian) of New Zealand’s financial system, allowing the sun to shine on the economy. To fulfil the kaitiakitanga role effectively, we focus on the four elements of Tāne Mahuta:
- Te pekenga, branches and leaves – our regulated entities, banks, insurers and non-bank deposit takers.
Te toto, the sap – our money, our foreign reserves.
- Te tariwai, vascular – our payment and settlement systems.
- Ngā pūtake, the roots – our legislation, our balance sheet and equity.
Tāne Mahuta – the tree sculpture
At the far end of the lobby, on the back wall past the lifts, is our representation of Tāne Mahuta, the great kauri tree.
White has been used behind Tāne Mahuta to represent the light that was created when Tāne separated Papatuanuku and Ranginui, and backlit green resin to represent te toto (the sap) of kauri. In the middle of the tree is the face of Tāne that acts as a guardian.
Ngā pūtake – floor tiles
Waka hourua – reception desk
Te Ngahere – the forest sculpture
The use of our coat of arms represents who we are as an institution and our history. It is embedded into the centre pou, which is made of modern composite material and represents the future.
The outer pou are made of two kauri pou named Pou-hiringa and Pou-tawhito. These represent the mighty kauri in the forest of Tāne.
At the top are branches and leaves made from resin. Backlighting is used to push a reflection onto the ceiling to mimic a canopy. The guardian birds in the canopy are Tiungarangi and Harongarangi, the great birds of Ruakapanga.
Punatoto – the life force carving
The carving between the two sets of front doors of our Wellington building is named ‘Punatoto: The Life Force’. Punatoto was an ancestor of Te Atiawa who lived in Whanganui-A-Tara, the Māori name for Wellington Harbour.
Second unveiling ceremony, October 2006
We commissioned Pita Rua Lagan, a tuhoe carver from Matahi in the Urewera, to carve Punatoto as part of New Zealand’s commemoration of 150 years since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
What the panels represent
Punatoto comprises three panels: a koruru (centre panel) and two maihi (side panels). The panels represent the interrelated, balanced forces of nature moving towards a focal point of security and comfort. Kauri for the koruru came from a swamp on the Wairau Plains, while kauri for the two maihi came from Tongariro National Park.
Initial sketch (Pita Rua Lagan)
Wellington is recognised by Māori as the ‘head of the fish of Maui’. The figure of Maui also represents Papatuanuku, the mother of Tāne, who in Māori cosmology provided totara wood for carving from the forest of Te Wao Nui A Tāne.
The area above the carving represents Rangi, the sky father. The stylised figures on the top of the panels depict parirau, the wings of a bird providing ruruhau, or shelter, from Tawhirimatea, the god of the winds.
Punatoto, detail. Photo credit: Stephen A’Court
The stylised pattern immediately below is Moananui A Iwi, a sea of people converging from both sides to the central ancestor, who will provide shelter, comfort and advice. The symmetrical circular pattern represents the ceaselessness of the waves of Tangaroa, the god of the sea.