New Māori look for Auckland Int. Airport

By Regan Paranihi

The departures section in the country's largest airport has had a revamp and Dr Johnson Witehira was one of three artists who gave the space a Māori look through design and illustration. 

Witehira says, "It starts with departures on the shore going across the land, up a maunga and into your waka rererangi into the sky. They will see little carved details added onto the walls, onto the chairs. They'll see elements stencilled onto concrete pillars and again it was about integrating some of the iwi stories, but also stories about being New Zealander Māori and Pākehā into this building."

The airport wanted to create an area to showcase the best of New Zealand while passengers wait to board their plane.

"Throughout the journey, I tried to find atua or stories that would relate to those experiences as we go through this departure journey. This is a very commercial space so it needs a lot of sensitivity, I think, to deal with our stories," he says.

Witehira says that over the past thirty years more organisations have started using Māori designs in their structures.

"I think the airport, just seeing that we are all wanting to connect to te ao Māori, this is an early stage for them, but a really big and important move."

Airport spokesperson Richard Barker says Māori design elements are really significant and popular with both visitors to New Zealand and the Kiwis arriving home.

"It was natural from us as the gateway to the country to include Māori design elements throughout the terminal expansion." 

Witehira hopes that these designs will take travellers on their own journey through parts of the Māori world, as they wait to take their venture into the outside world.

WATCH Dr Witehira show off his unique brand of Māori design in the world-famous Time Square in New York City.