Labour Weekend Celebrations for Taupo’s Maori Rock Carvings

Labour weekend this year marks the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings on Lake Taupo. Now considered one of New Zealand’s most extraordinary artworks, the 14-metre high carving of Ngatoroirangi will be celebrated with a series of events over Labour weekend, organised by Destination Great Lake Taupo and lead carver, Matahi Brightwell.

The project to create the carvings began in 1976 when Matahi Brightwell was asked by his grandmother, Te Huatahi Susie Gilbert (Ngati Rauhoto, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Maiotaki and Ngati Whakaue), to create a likeness of her ancestor Ngatoroirangi, a visionary Maori navigator who guided the Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa tribes to the Taupo area over a thousand years ago. It would create a permanent connection for her family to the land.

At the time a young Brightwell, now one of the last remaining traditional marae-trained carvers in New Zealand, never dreamt his artwork would become an iconic tourist attraction.

Damian Coutts, General Manager of Destination Great Lake Taupo says that thousands of people visit the Maori Rock Carvings on the cliff at Mine Bay each year.

“It is a magnificent contemporary Maori artwork, and it’s no surprise that it is one of the North Island’s biggest tourist attractions” says Coutts.

Celebratory events will begin on Friday 21 October at the Taupo i-SITE with the installation and private blessing of Ngatoroirangi’s younger brother, Ngatoroirangi Iti, also carved by Matahi Brightwell.

“Having Ngatoroirangi Iti on display at the i-SITE is a real honour. Our visitors will now be able to discover the story behind these carvings, and get a sense for the awe-inspiring experience of seeing his giant-sized older brother up close on the water” says Coutts.

On Saturday 22 October, visitors will have the opportunity to meet Matahi Brightwell as he completes a large chalk drawing, as part of Towncentre Taupo’s Graffiato Festival, outside the Great Lake Centre. Brightwell’s demonstration will use traditional Maori methods of marking out the artwork with string line. Visitors will be able to help colour in the artwork and will have the chance to chat to the carver himself as he works on the chalk drawing.

Boat and kayak trips to see the Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings run daily, with a special experience planned for Labour weekend’s Saturday and Sunday afternoon trips.

A mihi whakatau (welcome) will be held when the Saturday and Sunday afternoon trips arrive into Mine Bay, with the artist also sharing his story about the sculpting of the carvings and the meaning behind them.

“This will be a spine-tingling experience at a sacred and spiritual place. We are thrilled to have Matahi here for what will be a once in a lifetime experience for visitors,” says Coutts.

The Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings can only be reached by boat. The short trip from Taupo to Mine Bay can be taken with one of the many operators on Lake Taupo who offer this service. Operators include sailing boats, catamaran cruises, floatplanes, launches and kayaking tours. Boat trips cost approximately $30 - $50 per person and will operate throughout Labour weekend, several times a day.

Ngatoroirangi Iti will be on display for the public to view at the Taupo i-SITE from 8.30am, Friday 21 October. A six-minute film commissioned by Tourism New Zealand, Destination Great Lake Taupo and New Zealand Maori Tourism sharing the story behind the carvings, will also be launched and on display.

Discover a short version of the story behind the Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings here.

For more information and bookings go to


For more information, high res images and media enquiries contact:

Anna McLaren
Marketing and Communications Manager
Destination Great Lake Taupo
P: 027 315 6984

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