Te Kakakura Retaining Wall - Misc. NZ
Te Kakakura Retaining Wall

Te Kakakura Retaining Wall

Words by Boffa Miskell

The concepts of rongoa Māori and kaitiakitanga were built into the design narratives that connected historical and contemporary Te Āti Awa iwi to their guardianship role over the Kāpiti coast

Te Kakakura is situated in the original site of the Tuku Rakau pā (village) of local iwi, Te Atiawa. The Tuku Rakau pā was an integral part of the cultural landscape of Te Atiawa in and around Waikanae up to the 1860’s. Today the site is surrounded by dunes recognised as waahi tapu – sacred burial sites where koiwi (human remains) rest, and is overlooked by the Takamore urupa, an active whanau cemetery.

The Te Kakakura Retaining Wall is part of the wider Mackays to Peka Peka (M2PP) Expressway project. The expressway and wall bisect culturally significant land including the Grace Whānau and Ahu Whenua Trust land blocks, which comprise the last vestiges of the estate of Wiremu (Wi) Parata Te Kakakura. The form of the wall with its curved profile was designed to wrap around the large sand dune (onepu) like a kaitaka (cloak).

The design team worked closely with the Tuku Rakau collective to develop a design that is distinctly Maori, unique and modern. The process focused on identifying traditional concepts that can be applied to modern material, form and structure. This included precast concrete panels on the upper and lower sections of the wall with motifs that express the cultural values of the area.

These would be expressed using whakairo (carving), kōwhaiwhai (scroll patterns) and tukutuku (ornamental patterns); and interpreting the wall as a Kaitaka (cloak), embodying the following core values:

Manaakitanga – An expression of respect, kindness to others. Aroha (sympathy, compassion, love). The cloak embodies warmth, shelter and protection.

Rangatiratanga – Chieftainship and the right to exercise authority. Mana (prestige, influence, spiritual power). The cloak represents high status and autonomy, as the holder of stories, histories and knowledge.

Whanaungatanga – Kinship ties. Whakapapa (genealogy, lineage, ancestry). The cloak, as a taonga (treasured object), enhances relationships and working together.

Kaitiakitanga – Guardianship and stewardship. Ngā taonga (the act of valuing and treasuring). The cloak protects and guards those who hold the stories, histories and knowledge of the area.

The design and construction of the Te Kakakura wall was a collaborative effort between urban designers, stakeholders including artists from the Grace whānau and Ahu Whenua Trust lead by Rakairoa Hori, engineers and constructors to produce a special retaining wall which reflects the cultural significance of the area through the use of concrete.  The meticulous workmanship and special surface finish (recessed exposed aggregate design) has enhanced the wall as a cultural icon for the area.

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