Hawkes Bay installation teaches Polynesian navigation

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Today the Hawkes Bays first giant size celestial Star Compass has opened at Waitangi Park in Napier. It's a project three years in the making and will be used to teach people about traditional navigation.

The instalment cost $250,000, fundraising was led by Piripi Smith. Smith maintains that it was initiated to emphasis the connection between people and the environment.

Te Matau a Maui Voyaging Trust Chairman Piripi Smith told Te Kāea, “The connections of people to the land, to the sea. To do that, to fix that connection to the environment and to come here to learn about the stars, the sun and the moon.”

There is also a relationship between astronomy and traditional voyaging.

Kaumatua Matiu Eru says, “It's directly related to the movements of our elders as they navigated the ocean on their journeys. What's better than that?”

This is a celestial compass for all tribes of New Zealand, for the ocean voyagers, with a focus on youth and students of traditional ocean navigation.

HBRC Regional Chairman Rex Graham says, “It’s bringing ancient Polynesian navigational science to our region and to our kids. So they understand that the science of the first explorers, which of course were Māori, who came here a thousand years go. They didn’t get here by chance, they navigated here.”

The project will have great benefits for the local region and drive local tourism.

“It's hugely important to Heretaunga and it's going to be one of our major cultural attraction and of course tourist attraction.”

This morning, four pillars of the celestial Star Compass were unveiled. Come early summer, 28 pillars and the archway will be completed. Stars in the sky will last forever.