Te Āti Awa blesses opening of upgraded Naenae subway

Mana whenua representatives Ali Houpapa and Nate Rowe, with Greater Wellington regional councillor Quentin Duthie. Photo / Supplied

Wellington’s newly upgraded Naenae subway, blessed by Te Āti Awa and Taranaki Whānui at Wednesday’s official opening with Greater Wellington Regional Council, features Māori elements that celebrate the origin stories of the area.

“I felt it was important that the artwork embodies this place and its people,” mana whenua artist Len Hetet (Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Tuwharetoa, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Apa) says.

Hetet and fellow artist Manukorihi Winiata (Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) created the designs that adorn the walls and light the way through the subway, designed to provide a safe, modern entry to the train station and an improved pedestrian connection to Avalon in Lower Hutt.

Artwork featured in the Naenae subway created by artists Len Hetet and Manukorihi Winiata. Photo / Supplied

“The patterns and symbols tell the origin stories of the Waiwhetu and Te Awamutu rivers, and Te Ngaengae, the freshwater lake beneath Naenae,” Hetet says.

“The two rivers were formed by a great battle between two competing tupua (phenomenon), and are woven into the wider narrative of the hauling of Te Ika-a-Māui (the North Island) from the sea by Maui Potiki.”

Metlink group manager Samantha Gain says it’s important the subway reflects the significance of the area.

“It’s special when a project presents an opportunity to work with local artists and create public spaces that become part of the area’s identity.”

Greater Wellington regional councillor Quentin Duthie and others at Wednesday's official opening walking through the subway tunnel. Photo / Supplied

Greater Wellington regional councillor Quentin Duthie says Metlink worked with mana whenua, locals and Hutt City Council to design ways to make the subway safer, easier to navigate and reflect the community it serves after “the community strongly advocated for improvements.”

“After three years in the making, I hope the new look and feel of the subway will encourage people to make the most of the frequent rail services through Naenae and feel confident using public transport.”

Team Naenae Trust’s Lillian Pak added, “We can all be proud.”

“Just as this station connects Naenae to the rest of the Wellington region, this project has connected all those involved.”