The connection between whales and Kapiti
– their migratory expressway!
Watch the Ministry for Culture and Heritage's - Roadside Stories - Kapiti Island video
Whales and Kapiti have significant historic connections. Particularly compelling is the navigation story connecting whales and Maori in the region in pre-European times. It is believed that in exploring the region in their waka, Maori followed the navigation path of whales to guide them safely through complex and dangerous currents around Cook Strait and Kapiti Island. This facilitated the settling of Kapiti Island which was of considerable strategic and political importance in the 19th century, particularly as a stronghold of Te Rauparaha and Ngati Toa.
Te Rauparaha instigated trade with Pakeha by welcoming visiting ships to Kapiti and encouraging whalers and traders to live among Ngāti Toa. Cook Strait became the centre of a lucrative maritime trading empire, controlled by Ngāti Toa from their island fortress of Kapiti.
Humpback and Southern Right whales were slaughtered by intensive whaling activities based around Cook Strait and on Te Kahe Te Rau O Te Rangi, Kapiti Island during past centuries. According to DOC’s website an original population of approximately 10,000 Humpbacks at the beginning of the last century was reduced to less than 5%, or an estimated 250-500 whales, of the original population. Humpbacks were given total protection from commercial whaling by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1966 and have an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) status of Vulnerable.
The Humpback whale, Megaptera Novaeangliae, is a migratory species of Baleen whale found throughout the oceans of the North Atlantic, North Pacific and Southern Hemisphere. Northern migrating Humpbacks in New Zealand waters pass along the east coast of the South Island and then divide into two groups, with one continuing up the east side of the North Island and the other passing through Cook Strait and up the west side of the North Island past the Kapiti region. In 2010, over 40 Humpbacks were sighted migrating through this region.
Whale Song will provide a spectacular “focussing” visual experience
Whale Song would become an incredible centrepiece for Kapiti, which is increasing in popularity as an outdoor recreationally focussed area. Kilometres of new walk/cycleways come together at the Whale Song site, creating a new gateway to Paraparaumu shopping areas, cafes, restaurants, fast food, a splash or sauna at the local pool and a movie or two.
The Whale Song experience
Visitors to Whale Song would experience the magnificence and scale of the Humpback whale species and its habitat, learn about its near extinction as a result of commercial whaling operations last century and modern species protection strategies and methods. (both globally via the International Whaling Commission and locally via DOC)
This story would be set within the context of Maori and European settlement in the region, and its unique conservation history featuring Queen Elizabeth Park, Akatarawa and Tararua Forest Parks, Whareroa Farm and the Kapiti Marine Reserve which links the Kapiti Island Nature Reserve and the Waikanae Scientific Estuary to form a rare and special part of New Zealand.
Proposed location of “Whale Song”
It is proposed that “Whale Song” be located alongside the Wharemauku Stream in Paraparaumu.
The Trust approached the landowner, Ngahina Development Ltd, to obtain a suitable one acre (4000sqm approx) site and Ngahina have generously agreed to a perpetual lease of this area.
The Wharemauku Stream is on the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand's North Island. Its headwaters are in the Maungakotukutuku valley, and it flows through the Paraparaumu township to Raumati Beach before reaching the sea.
The location is highlighted in the centre of the image below. It adjoins the newly created cycle and walkway network developed in conjunction with the Kapiti Expressway. The expressway runs through the left of the picture.
Click image to enlarge
Kapiti – the future
Today, in this busy tech focussed world, people are increasingly looking for the ‘Point of Difference’ on where they spend their social outdoor time and how they spend their money. Choices are vast, competition is ripe and locals and tourists are looking for that creatively inspirational “wow” experience.
“Whale Song”, potentially one of NZ’s largest sculptural installations, would provide that point of difference between Paraparaumu and other centres in New Zealand. These significant sculptural additions have shown worldwide how they become a major attraction to regional visitors, overseas tourists and locals.
Attracting more people to the area through stunning visual arts in a massive scale like “Whale Song”, surrounded by creative open spaces, more art, exciting shopping and eateries will add significantly to the desired economic growth for Paraparaumu and the surrounding area.
More about a potential landscaped area beneath the whales
The footprint foundation of the sculpture could mimic ocean currents and the continental shelf in a concept that significantly adds to the sculpture’s presence and magnificence. Torrents of water are envisaged cascading between the whales collecting in large holding ponds at the base to be recycled and used again. The ponds would act as a reflecting surface to provide a mirror image of the sculpture.
Through a system of floodgates the ponds would be tidal, rising periodically when the whales blow to alter the landscape and mimic the rock pools of the area. A ‘path of discovery‘ through the whales may suddenly be cut off by rising water forcing adventurers to navigate another path, or receding waters could reveal sculptured starfish, crabs or crustaceans in rock pools, representing species of the local coastline.
The landscape would provide multiple views of the sculpture, some elevated to give a high vantage point, while the smaller and lower whales would enable an interactive and tactile experience.
The foundation could also incorporate caves to be discovered where views of the whales could be glimpsed through curtains of water. Bronze crayfish, anemones, eels and the like could adorn the caves to excite the explorer. ‘Pause spots’ and photo opportunities would be provided, with wheelchair access ramps incorporated along with full safety barricading and handrails to provide a safe and enjoyable experience.
Overall this is envisaged as an area incorporating world-class landscape design incorporating a strong educational aspect for both young and old. The total sculpture could be solar powered, collecting energy to enable it to be self-sufficient in lighting, effects, etc.
Whale Song is an ambitious project, but it is totally achievable with so many added benefits to not only our community, but also New Zealanders, and international tourists alike.
It will be iconic! It will certainly put Kapiti on the map, and Paraparaumu at the very centre of that map.
How do you make a whale? Find out more here.