Winners of both the Māori Tourism Award and Resilience & Innovation Award at the New Zealand Tourism Awards 2023.

If these walls could speak, you would hear the voices of our ancestors, master storytellers of the truest kind. Our wharenui, the ancestral meeting house, hold the truths of our people and our ways of life. This is where the outside world and the inside world meet.


The wharenui is also where Rongo-mā-Tāne, the god of peace resides. As you make your way from the outside world, into the inside world, remember a few important things.

Before entering the wharenui, always remove your shoes and your hats first. This marks the transition you will make from the two different realms. The outside world is where Tūmatauenga, the god of war lives. Whereas, inside the wharenui is where Rongo-mā–Tāne, the god of peace dwells.

meeting house
Whare door

In traditional Māori world view, your head is an extension of your mind, so it is important to take anything off your head before entering the wharenui. If your head is covered, then you are blocking the pathway for your ancestors to reach you – through your mind and to your heart.

For Māori people, going bare feet is another opportunity to stay more connected to nature and surroundings. Entering our sacred wharenui with bare feet is a sign of respect and gives reverence to the line of ancestry or whakapapa we descend from.

The design of the wharenui itself takes on a whole new meaning if you view it not just as a structure but as a house that represents the body of an ancestor and contains the whakapapa of its people as a whole.


A closer look at the ancestral meeting house - Wharenui

Tekoteko: The large carved figure at apex of the house represents a tribal ancestor.

Maihi: The barged boards left and right of the structure are the outstretched arms of the ancestor – a sign of welcome.

Amo: The two upright carvings either side of the house are the legs of the ancestor.

Tāhūhū: The beam or ridgepole that runs inside the middle is the backbone of the ancestors.

Heke: The painted rafters inside represent the ancestor’s ribcage.

Poutokomanawa: The pole in the middle is the beating heart of the ancestor and connects the earth and the sky.

Whakairo: Intricate carvings that represent our ancestors and illustrate ancestor stories.

For the Māori people, the wharenui is a beautiful reminder of who we are and what is important to us. It is a gathering place for our families, communities and tribes. As diverse and rich as the stories of the ancestors that they represent, visiting a wharenui is like unlocking a book and watching history unfold generation after generation.