Last Friday and Saturday saw the formal opening events of the Huntly section of the Waikato Expressway, after five years of hard work by the team.
A blessing of the road was led by Waikato Tainui kaumatua and the Maori King, Kingii Tuheitia Potatau Te Wherewhero te tuawhitu. Minister of Transport Phil Twyford, and representatives from the iwi, Fulton Hogan, HEB, NZTA, local government and stakeholders followed in buses as the blessing progressed.
The project team is very proud of the outstanding construction project they have been part of, and members of the team proudly led a commentary as they drove through the site.
The blessing concluded with Kingii Tuheitia cutting the ribbon at the northern interchange, before proceeding back through the site to stop off at the Taupiri summit to look at the pou. Warren McGrath, the Manutaki (master carver) spoke in detail with the Maori King and Minister Twyford about the pou design and what it represented. The tour finished at Te Iringa lagoon for speeches and morning tea.
Fulton Hogan project director Tony Adams was presented with a Pouwhenua. The Pouwhenua (long handled weapon) is named Kahu-pokere, which is a reference to one of the final stages of creation as referenced in the ancient Tainui Whare Waananga (house of learning). The name was bestowed on the Pouwhenua by kaumatua of Taupiri marae, specifically for the whakanoa ceremony. On the morning of the whakanoa, Kahu-pokere was passed between the Tohunga waerea, as each took their turn to recite the Waerea (ancient incantations) utilised on this historic occasion. Kahu-pokere was created by the renowned Waikato carver Kingi Tawhiao for this historic occasion.
Tony Adams says, “I was very emotional during the presentation. It was a great honour to accept the pouwhenua on behalf my hardworking team, who have worked tirelessly for the past five years to get the project to where it is today.”
On Saturday, around 2,000 people took part in the Expressway Classic special running event. Participants chose to walk or run the half marathon, 10km, 5km, and kids’ 2km. All finishers received a special gold medal.
Around 10 project staff competed in the half marathon, 10km and 5km runs, along with family members who walked the 2km with their kids.
From 10am, the site was opened to the public. Walkers, cyclist and bus users enjoyed the new road. It is estimated that approximately 15,000 persons attended the public open day.