Special taonga part of national earthquake memorial

A special taonga makes up part of the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial, which was officially unveiled today.

Six years on, there is now a permanent reminder of those who lost their lives on February 22, 2011. Source: 1 NEWS

The 265kg piece of pounamu, the traditional Maori name for greenstone, was gifted by Te Runanga o Makaawhio, one of local iwi Ngai Tahu's sub tribes for the memorial.

"We don't have that source over on this side of the Southern Alps so we have to have an open relationship with our relations and particularly Ngati Waiwai which are the Runanga based over near Hokitika," Tui Falwasser of the Matapopore Charitable Trust told 1 NEWS.

"It's with that Runanga that we were able to go in and source this significant pounamu," she said.

The piece was found, chosen and removed by helicopter from a remote Westland Valley.

"When the stone came out of the river it was quite rough and very bumpy and pitted in the surface, so we’ve taken the oxidised part of the surface down to smooth it off and make it nice and friendly to touch," carver Caleb Robinson said.

"Most people think of pounamu as being a green stone, but the colour of pounamu goes from pure white to the darkest of black and every colour in-between.

The Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial, on the banks of the Avon River, is ready for its official unveiling. Source: 1 NEWS

"It oxidises on the outside and you never know what’s inside a stone until you cut it and have a look at it," he said.

Placing pounamu at important entranceways is an established Maori tradition.

A 265kg piece of pounamu has been gifted by Te Runanga o Makaawhio for the national memorial. Source: 1 NEWS

Last week, the stone was mounted onto a plinth with a Carrara marble base at the site.

A water feature sprays water across the pounamu – or touch stone - which visitors to the memorial will be encouraged to feel.

"When you touch a bit of pounamu you take onboard a bit of its Mauri, its essence or feeling.

"But at the same time while you touch the stone, you might put a bit of your pouri or sadness and it takes it away from you.

"It really heals people emotionally," Mr Robinson said.