The waharoa is entitled 'Mai i te Whai Ao, ki te Ao Marama' in te reo Māori which, for students at NMIT, symbolises 'a world of potential on entry and a world of light on fulfilment of study'.
A waharoa is a carved passage or gateway which taua, or war party, would pass through before a large battle. As each warrior passed through the pou, or posts, they fully committed to Tumatauenga (the God of War) and knew there was no turning back. It is a traditional tikanga, or custom, which has been reimagined for learners at NMIT.
The institute's director of Māori education, Doc Ferris, said the idea for the waharoa had been brewing for several years.
"This idea is captured in the carvings on the waharoa with the design at the base of the pou representing our learners when they arrive to us. The form and potential is there but it is yet to be filled in or fully developed", he said.
"The pattern down the centre of the pou depicts the pathway of the learner and the pattern at the top of the pou represents the learner when they have acquired all the pukenga, or skills, they have sought to attain whilst with us at NMIT".
Doc Ferris and a team of carvers created the three-metre-high pou over several months, using totara logs from trees blown over on the West Coast and sourced from Te Awhina marae, Motueka.
On July 14, NMIT colleagues, our kaumatua, local iwi and Maori and community representatives gathered together for the official ceremonial blessing of the waharoa in front of Te Toki Pakohe near Block D, the Māori studies centre.
Everyone joined in the singing of 'Hutia te Rito' to seal the blessing with the guidance of kaumatua Joe Paul and Koro Tom for the karakia.
NMIT students who commenced their study in July were the first to pass through the pou during its first official powhiri and welcoming on July 18. NMIT CEO Tony Gray said he is proud to have such a special gateway in place at the institute and feels it embodies the values and hopes for all involved with NMIT.