Ngāi Tahu gifts pounamu pendants to NZ Olympic and Paralympic athletes

Jun 10, 2021

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu today welcomed the New Zealand Olympic Committee and Paralympics New Zealand to its Ōtautahi office for the gifting of 580 pounamu pendants to the New Zealand Olympic and Paralympic Teams.

Senior leaders from both organisations joined for a mihi whakatau, where the pounamu was blessed and presented to Chef de Mission Rob Waddell, ONZM, and Chef de Mission, Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Paula Tesoriero, MNZM.

The pendants have been named Te Taumata o Angitu – The Pinnacle of Success, they were designed by Ngāi Tahu Master Carver Fayne Robinson and hand carved by Aaron Shannon, Aaron Tauwhare, Kurtis Bell, and Josh Tamainu of Ngāti Waewae on Te Tai o Poutini.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai says, “Pounamu is sacred to our people and we are honoured to have our athletes wearing our taonga in their pursuit of greatness.”

“There is a rich symbolism behind all the elements in this stunning design, but equally important we want athletes to attribute and imbue their own personal meaning into their piece of stone.”

PNZ Chair Jana Rangooni says, “Our Chef de Mission Paula Tesoriero is honoured to receive the pounamu pendants on behalf of our Paralympians, and we thank Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu for this sacred taonga. The pounamu has a very special meaning for the NZ Paralympic Team and connection back to Aotearoa.”

NZOC President Mike Stanley says, “Many of the taonga and traditions of our team have their origins in the long and positive relationship we’ve had with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. We are honoured to receive the pounamu pendants for Tokyo on behalf of “Te Kapa o Aotearoa” and look forward to an ongoing collaboration.”

The longstanding relationship between Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and the New Zealand Olympic Committee began in 2004, when the iwi loaned the New Zealand Olympic Team a mauri stone to accompany them to the Athens Games.

The ceremony today also included the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the New Zealand Olympic Committee and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

Lisa says, “Today’s signing is the formalisation and strengthening of a relationship that has been built over many years, based on mutual values, aspirations, and respect.”


Additional information

All Pounamu is sacred and highly valued by Ngāi Tahu, the most southern tribe of Aotearoa, New Zealand. Carving this sacred stone has been a cornerstone of Ngāi Tahu culture for hundreds of years.

The Pounamu disc form reflects both Japan – the land of the rising sun and one of Aotearoa, New Zealand myths Maui and the sun.

The Mangopare (hammer head shark) kowhaiwhai symbolizes strength, the strength of a Mangopare. It also resembles the connection the athletes will build by uplifting, supporting and enhancing each other as one team representing their country.

The weaved taura is a representation of the binding together of many to achieve a shared outcome for the athlete’s, for their whānau, and for their nation.

The taura reminds all athletes that, although you may compete alone or in a team, there are many who contributed to the journey and they are represented in the unbreakable bond of the many threads that make up this taura.

The triangle indents carved into these Pounamu is a stylized symbol of the traditional Niho Taniwha design – the teeth of the taniwha.

There are 7 sets of these niho showing the 7 phases of the moon which play a huge roll in mahinga kai for Te Ao Māori.