Have you visited Te Papa and noted the Karamea connection with one of the three large boulders by the main entrance?
Did you read what was etched on the fancy plaques on the boulders, perhaps attracted by the familiarity of the multi-coloured crystals in the rock nearest the entrance?
MUSEUM OF NEW ZEALAND TE PAPA TONGAREWA
THIS STONE CELEBRATES THE MANY JOURNEYS AND IDENTITIES OF ALL THE COMMUNITIES AND PEOPLES OF NEW ZEALAND. THE STONE WAS UNVEILED BY THE PRIME MINISTER, RIGHT HONOURABLE JAMES BOLGER,
ON 2 JULY 1994
What the boulders represent
These three boulders symbolise the Museum's commitment to Papatūānuku (Mother Earth, the land), Tangata Whenua (Māori, the people of the land), and Tangata Tiriti (people in New Zealand by right of the Treaty of Waitangi). The three plaques read as follows (L-R):
This boulder represents Tangata Tiriti (people in New Zealand by right of the Treaty of Waitangi), and is Karamea granite, about 350 million years old, from the Ōpārara River north of Karamea.
This, the largest, is the foundation stone and represents Papatūānuku (Mother Earth, the land). It is andesite lava that erupted from Mt Taranaki about 75,000 years ago.
This boulder represents Tangata Whenua (Māori, the people of the land), and is andesite lava that erupted from Mt Taranaki about 75,000 years ago.
Karamea granite is an igneous rock (a rock that has formed from a molten state), and it comes from the Ōpārara River north of Karamea. It is a rock type that New Zealand shared with Australia when the two countries were linked as part of Gondwanaland before the separation of the two land masses eighty-five million years ago. Granite represents solidity and permanence, and its lovely crystal colours of salmon pink, grey, white, and black symbolise the diversity of the Tangata Tiriti cultures in New Zealand.
How the boulder got to Te Papa
Sometime in 1994, a rock specialist came to Karamea specifically to find the right piece of Karamea pink granite for the foundation display outside Te Papa. He teamed up with Selwyn Lowe who at that time was getting granite out of the Ōpārara quarry at the Fenian for local river protection works.
There was nothing suitable at the quarry site so Selwyn showed him the rock stashes at Maori Point and beside the Little Wanganui Bridge where he found just what he was looking for. Not exactly an easy item to post to Wellington! Selwyn put it on a truck with his digger and drove it to Westport where it was loaded onto a railway flatdeck wagon bound for Wellington.
Selwyn says that they have done nothing to the granite rock and the drilling hole from the original blasting is still visible.
Where's the Oarara?
When my daughters visited the site in December last year they spotted a misspelling of ‘Ōpārara’. The following was on the plaque on the Karamea boulder, and on the website information:
‘… The granite is about 350 million years old and comes from the Oarara River north of Westport.’
We contacted staff at Te Papa who were suitably embarrassed that such a public mistake had been made and surprised that no-one had pointed it out before. Experts were consulted. They confirmed that a mistake had been made and Te Papa agreed to correct it. The web site information was easily changed but it took several months for the expensive replacement plaque to be prepared.