The Isles of Iwi
Many offshore islands in Aotearoa New Zealand are currently caught in their colonial past by housing non-native flora and fauna species, irrelevant buildings and fail to reference their cultural past. However, due to their close proximity to the mainland, rich native ecosystems and extensive history, offshore islands have the immediate potential to become valuable spaces that present a unique opportunity for users to become immersed in Aotearoa New Zealand’s native biodiversity and bicultural landscape. Matiu, Makaro, and Mokopuna are Pōneke Wellington’s harbour islands in the capital city of Aotearoa New Zealand. For centuries, indigenous Māori tribes occupied Matiu Island, establishing Pā sites and using them for defence and communication. However, for the past 170 years; iwi have been excluded from involvement with these Islands.
Islands in indigenous Māori culture are closely associated with narratives of long waka voyages, star navigation, Kaimoana and the establishment of Pā’s, a base for Māori traditions and way of life. Therefore, many of these islands are of great cultural and historical significance to Māori, but many of these narratives and events have been forgotten or overshadowed by the later European influences.
Set upon Matiu Island, the design aims to transform Wellington’s largest harbour island into a cultural and educational node comprised of journeys and culturally focused destinations that are influenced by narratives significant to Iwi. This design-led research explores solutions that unite Māori and the local community, through a diverse range of spaces that enable Matiu Island to become an integral part of Pōneke Wellington’s culture and identity. The design solutions explore the development of the site’s entrance, the founding of a marae and a range of spaces for traditional practices to take place which are tied together with connecting pathways that speak of the islands significant narratives. Studying the pre-colonised state of the island and its time as a Pā will provide cultural clues into how the island can embrace and convey its mauri, creating a cultural experience that aims to educate and inspire.