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Waoku is our chiefly ancestress from whom Hine-i-Tūrama descends and the hapū (kin-community) to which the Tapsell Road residents belong and take their name, Ngāti Waoku (people of Waoku).


Waoku actually means “Deep Forest”. Tūrama Retreat has been designed to represent the sheltering elements of Waoku, both in name and in service to all who dwell under her canopy (manaakitanga). Waoku, represented here, is carved from Kauri taken out of the forests below Moehau o Tamatekapua (resting place of Tamatekapua, the captain of the Arawa voyage to NZ 26 generations ago) and is recognition of his wife Whakaotirangi, who brought the first kumara (sweet potato) to NZ.


The vessel in which Waoku stands is made from totara and carries the representative guardian symbols of Ngati Waoku, namely the kokako (blue-wattled crow) and the pekapeka mamaku (native bat) as well as subtle depictions of the tuna (eel) and kumara. Her pito (umbilical cord button) was carved from an old native driftwood root bough collected from Maketū, the landing place of the Arawa waka.


Taniko is the pattern that has been cut into the steelwork wrapping our homestead. It is associated with the borders of our traditional cloaks (kakahu) of prestige. Our steel pattern symbolises a dynamic border between sky and land, land and ocean, past and present. It protects all who are cloaked within our homestead.


The design is directly abstracted from the family’s ceremonial cloak: Te Kakahu o Kouma. This cloak was created by one of Te Arawa’s elders, Paparoa (Julie) Gordon of Maketū under the commission of Mark Tapsell Snr. Paparoa is fondly remembered as one of a handful of elite weavers nationwide who led the traditional weaving renaissance of the 1960s. Incidentally Taniko is also the name of an ancestress directly related to the whānau and her name also features through the generations.


Tūrama Retreat was co-designed by RTA Studio's Richard Naish and Ngāti Waoku descendant Paul Tapsell. From the first moment you enter you will know you have walked into a very personal, intimate three dimensional expression of a Māori family’s identity already 16 generations old.​


Not so obvious, is the structural engineering beneath her skin, designed with a minimum 150 year specification, taking into account her need to provide an unparalleled level of hospitality in a geothermally active region. If disaster were ever to hit the Rotorua region again – be it an earthquake or volcanic eruption like in 1886 – our guests staying at Tūrama Retreat will find they are sheltering in one of the seismically safest, deliberately over-engineered weight-bearing homes of New Zealand and will have a better than even chance of surviving to tell their story.


The colours chosen for the home and landscape directly reflect the volcanic plateau environment of the wider Rotorua region. These capture regionally unique hues of the Mamaku forest, Tongariro grasses, Tarawera scoria, Te Awawherowhero ochre (kokowai), Kuirau muds (paru) and the geothermal pumices of Maungakakaramea (Rainbow Mountain).  


The ley lines not only intersect Tūrama Retreat, but also frame the very structure of the home. Every angle, every component is heavy with hidden genealogically encoded narratives of the past, providing descendants with a GPS aligned cloak of protection by which they might navigate into the future,

whatever tomorrow brings.

These lines have been carved into Tūrama's foundation and meet beneath its fireplace

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