Te Taiao exhibition to open at Te Papa - with a little help from Māui

By Tema Hemi

Te Papa's new $12mil permanent exhibition 'Te Taiao', provides an insight into the once-thriving natural environment of Aotearoa .  The exhibition's new digital interactive activities feature the Polynesian folk-hero Māui and aims educate children on their role as protectors of the environment . 

According to Kāti Mahaki ki Makaawhio tradition, Māui first landed in Roger Bay, Southland.  

Kāti Mahaki ki Makaawhio elder Richard Wallace says, "The history comes from my area of Mahitahi, or Maitahi. There we speak in our stories of the place where Māui first landed."

Te Papa cultural advisor Brad Haami says, "My role as the Māori cultural advisor is to ensure that the history is correct and accurate.  The tribal history, history of the moa, history pertaining to Māui, the history of our ancestors."

The interactive exhibition features over 1,200 real museum specimens.

Te Papa director Arapata Hakiwai says, "All the tribes we have collaborated with have been marvellous.  As part of the exhibition we invited input from Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Wai for the Northland, Tainui-Waikato, the Whanganui River, Ngāti Rangitāne and Ngāti Tuwharetoa."

The exhibition doesn't open to the general public until Saturday, but students from Wellington's Mt Cook Primary School were treated to a sneak-peek. 

One student says, "There was this game I was playing earlier, it was fun and it was challenging. The earthquake [simulator] was pretty cool as well."

"I've been learning about fish and stuff", another said. 

The exhibition teaches kids about the different environmental issues that affect our country.

Another Mt Cook School student says, "I think it's very important to see about our nature and all around the environment. The birds are dying from people."

Ranea Aperahama of Te Papa says, "Lets just say that the sky father Ranginui and mother earth Papa have suffered immensely and this pertains to mankind because our ancestors and our traditions teach us that we were created by the gods."

Te Papa are expecting the 'Te Taiao' exhibition to be as successful as Peter Jackson's 'Gallipoli' exhibition which in its first year had over seven hundred thousand visitors.