Taonga in loving embrace

Published on
10 Nov 2017

Emotional and cultural significance

New Zealand pounamu is one of the world’s most resilient materials, filled with a variety of minerals and full of character. It’s no wonder it was chosen by Wellington sculptor Terence Turner (Tainui) as the stone to use to create our fifth taonga.

Crafted into a design to represent tamariki, based on the Oranga Tamariki pou, the carving now completes the set of five taonga being used in our Trails of Taonga videos.

The final taonga will be gifted as a shared symbol of positivity to a member of the public for supporting a care-experienced young person. Even before carving started on the final taonga the stone had weight behind it, says Terence.

“Having seen the emotion in the initial campaign video, and knowing what Oranga Tamariki does, the stone already held emotional presence. Pounamu has an emotional and cultural significance anywhere it is found in the world; there is always a spiritual connection to it.”

taonga crop3

Evolving during the carving

The project evolved as Terence was working on it, with the carving starting out thinner and taller than how it ended up. “The weight on paper looked good but I realised later that the centre of gravity would be too high so I changed it to be more child-like in its proportions.”

The magic in how the taonga turned out is that when people pick it up, they hold it like a tiny baby.

“I went for baby proportions which are sort of universal – big eyes, big head etc. – and I tried to create that feeling that everyone has when they hold a baby or a puppy.”

“Being commissioned to create such a large piece was great because I knew from the start that it was good use of the stone. Knowing how it would be used, I had no self-conscious thoughts about using a big piece of stone. I was really stoked to be a part of the project.”

Sharing the taonga stories

The Trails of Taonga campaign was launched in June this year and research showed that New Zealanders are more likely to help our tamariki if they know their actions will lead to positive outcomes.

James Whitaker, General Manager Engaging all New Zealanders, says the videos highlight the value of small acts of care to young people. “The taonga symbolise and normalise small acts of kindness.”

“The videos also encourage people on social media to share their own positive stories where a child was valued and helped by someone – so that later, each taonga will be passed on to another deserving individual.”

Already available online are the stories of Carmel and her supporter Mark; siblings Gen and Henare with their supporter Sylvia; Stephanie and her supporter Nicole; and Shane and his supporter Chris.

Just as no two pieces of pounamu are the same, neither are the stories of the people who have received each taonga or the young people they’ve helped. You can view and share stories on the Oranga Tamariki Facebook page –

You can contact Terence Turner via: