Te Puna Wānaka - a special place

Photo of four people socialising outside Te Puna Wanaka.

Te Puna Wānaka - a special place

Visually striking, Te Puna Wānaka’s building makes a strong cultural statement about the importance of Māori facilities for students, local iwi Ngāi Tahu, our Pasifika communities and others from the wider community.

Many whānau and community groups hold their hui, wānanga and fono here, and this accessibility is important to us.

Originally opened in 1995 as Te Mātauranga Māori, the complex was the culmination of hard work and the realisation of many dreams.

Our role within the Māori community has been significantly enhanced since we opened the whare. The modern facilities can easily cater for over 200 people and the kitchen is a chef’s dream.

Many whānau and community groups have held their hui and wānanga within the complex and it has reinforced our belief that we are the most accessible tertiary institution for Māori in Christchurch.

The building itself carries all the symbolism of a traditional wharenui Te Mātauranga Māori although it is highly stylised using modern materials and design. The Te Puna Wānaka values of manaakitanga, aroha, rangatiratanga and whanaungatanga exist easily within such a facility. The design intent of the building was to synthesise Māori cosmology with western knowledge in architectural form and function.

Ka Awatea - radiant first light - broad daylight

Expressed by light shafts that penetrate to the heart of the complex rendering the whole complex asunder.

Wero - the challenge - the excitement of anticipation, discovery and learning.

Depicted by a series of huge columns marching resolutely down the face of the building to the main entrance and out to the grassed forecourt. These pouwhakairo lead manuhiri and students across the atea, into the foyer and then to the heart of the wharenui where the poutokomanawa maintains the link between earth and sky.

Papatūānuku and Ranginui

Depicted by this huge curved wall of natural materials - raw concrete rising sheer like a cliff face, shielding and protecting all within. Papatūānuku the earth mother, with outstretched arms to Ranginui the sky father, depicted by the flying roof in levitation.

Tapu and Noa

Cosmological and architectural forms interact to enhance and validate forms of ritual encounter and ceremony. These rites and the sacred representations of god and ancestor are known as Tapu.

Narratives, like art is one means by which a culture's image of reality, its worldview is represented to the members of that culture.

Beyond this the functions of normal life are activated in the classrooms, the dining/kitchen area and administration. All these are regarded as worldly and known as Noa.


Ngā kete o te kura-wanangā o matangireia

The poupou in front of the building depicts the story of Tane climbing to the heavens to gather the sacred baskets of knowledge. The story is well known amongst Māori and is retold to illustrate the qualities of perseverance, dedication and zeal. Tāne displayed physical, spiritual and mental strength in his odyssey to overcome adversity and to acquire knowledge.