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In the late 1970s master carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell had completed his 10-year training period with Maori elders. He came to his mother's land at Lake Taupo to mark the occasion with a significant carving.
On a boat trip around the Western Bays he saw the cliffs at Mine Bay and recognised the opportunity to use them as a canvas for his work. Matahi decided to carve a likeness of Ngatoroirangi, a visionary Maori navigator who guided the Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa tribes to the Taupo area over a thousand years ago. In recognition of the cross-cultural nature of New Zealand, Matahi also carved two smaller figures of Celtic design, which depict the south wind and a mermaid.
The main carving is over 10 metres high and took four summers to complete. The artwork is Matahi's gift to Taupo. He and four assistants took no payment other than small change donations from local bar patrons to cover the cost of the scaffolding.
The carving has become an important cultural attraction for the region and a clear demonstration that traditional Maori knowledge and skills continue to be passed from generation to generation.
The Mine Bay rock carvings can only be reached by boat and are best viewed up close from a kayak.