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Legends link to nature

Published: 7 July 2022

Last Updated: 4 August 2022

NANZ Legnds School Hols

Making connections – exploring Māori legends in nature at the National Aquarium.

Pania of the Reef - beautiful maiden of local legend, creature of the sea and immortalised in bronze on Marine Parade - is a taonga to mana whenua, a landmark for locals and an iconic part of Napier.

Visitors to the National Aquarium of New Zealand can now discover a retelling of her story, and other tales, woven through the facility during the July school holidays.

Rachel Haydon, National Aquarium General Manager, explains the richness and wonder of nature can be explained through many perspectives, and in Aotearoa New Zealand, mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) is key to understanding the world.

“By understanding cultural and scientific perspectives, we can derive more meaning about the world around us. This has been an important factor in choosing this focus for our July school holiday activity,” Rachel says.

The National Aquarium’s school holiday programme will focus on a different Māori atua (god) each day, and their links to the environment and species on display. This includes Ruamoko, the atua of earthquakes and volcanoes, who has his own storyboard by East Coast Lab, the display about earthquake and tsunami risk.

Storytime sessions will run three times a day, from 9 to 24 July, in the Oceanarium Main Hall. Each will focus on a different story, either Pania, Māui’s tussle with Te Ika te Māui (the North Island), or Mere Whaanga’s retelling of the Wairoa-based legend of the seven whales.

The chosen stories have been pulled together with the permission of authors, Scholastic and Penguin/Random House Publishers.

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