Regional | Ministry of Transport

Moving from traditional whakairo into modern concepts

Artist Graham Tipene (Ngāti Whātua) has etched his way from the needle to the chisel and now moving his designs to the roads, bridges, and parks of Auckland. His purpose is to bring more of a Māori presence to Auckland by doing what he does best.

From imprinting designs on the skin to designs on Auckland’s bridges.

Tipene told Te Ao, “I go to Māori townships like Gisborne and Rotorua. In every corner, Māori symbolism is very visible. In Auckland, where is that symbolism? There isn't any.”

This initiative has been created out of a relationship between the New Zealand Transport Agency and Ngāti Whātua.

New Zealand Transport Māori Advisor Eynon Delamere said, "A few years ago, the board of the New Zealand Transport Agency agreed on a new strategy. In that plan was the need to connect with iwi across the country and work collaboratively on our highways. From that, the local iwi agreed on who the artist they'd chosen for this work."

Tipene says, "It was a huge challenge but very satisfying to be able to enlighten them about our world and how to showcase our beautiful imagery appropriately and correctly."

The Ōteha bridge north of Auckland is Tipene's favourite design and is named Tirohanga Whānui.

"The Board of Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki named that bridge. In ancient times, the ancestors would utilise that hill as a viewing platform to map out a course of travel."

Four to five more bridges are expected to roll out over the next few years and we'll be able to see more collaboration between NZTA and Tipene.