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News posted on Friday 14th June, 2024

Media release: Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and Paralympics New Zealand

Paralympics New Zealand members (L-R) Aaron Mills, Sian Ruth, Maria Clarke, Greg Warnecke, Raylene Bates, Lynette Grace, Catriona McBean, Jana Rangooni and Pam Elgar pose for a photo during a Paris 2024 Olympic Games New Zealand Athlete Pounamu Handover on June 13, 2024 in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu pounamu to be given to Paralympic and Olympic athletes 

New Zealand’s Paralympic and Olympic athletes are to receive pendants made from the extremely rare Tahutahi “snowflake” pounamu, as they compete for their nation in Paris later this year. 

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu hosted Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) and the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) and at its Ōtautahi office on Thursday 13 June, supplying them with 550 Ngāi Tahu Pounamu pendants. 

Senior leaders from all three organisations joined for a pōwhiri, where the pounamu was blessed and presented to the teams. 

It took a year for Ngāti Māhaki ki Makaawhio carvers to create the pieces, which are made from Tahutahi pounamu, or “snowflake jade”. 

Tahutahi pounamu is one of the rarest types of pounamu. Found only on the Cascade Plateau, south of Haast. It is a rich and intense green, with a striking white snow­flake effect. 

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu has never given permission to outside parties for the collection and sale of the distinctive pounamu from this region.  

Fayne Robinson and Rānui Ngārimu designed the pendants, while Ngāi Tahu Pounamu carvers Caleb Robinson and Tutoko Wallace hand carved them with help from Ben Lakin from Art Fetiche. They were bound by Christina Tamaya and Chantal Tumahai from Ngāi Tahu Pounamu.  

The pendants will travel to Paris with the Paralympic and Olympic teams where they will be presented to each athlete and team support member as they are welcomed to the Paralympic village.  

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Kaiwhakahaere Justin Tipa says the pounamu pendants are taonga. 

“They’re a special gift for our athletes. We wish them all the best in Paris.” 

NZ Paralympic Team Chef de Mission Raylene Bates Chair says, “it was an honour to receive the pounamu pendants on behalf of our Paralympians and we thank Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu for this sacred taonga. The pounamu has a very special meaning for the NZ Paralympic Team and connection back to Aotearoa.“ 

NZOC Chef de Mission Nigel Avery says the pendants will connect the athletes to home while they compete overseas. 

“We are extremely grateful to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu for this special taonga,” said Avery. 

“Presenting team members with a pounamu necklace is a meaningful and significant tradition for the New Zealand Team. It helps to unite and inspire our athletes and lets them carry a little piece of home with them as they compete for Aotearoa New Zealand.” 

The Paralympic Games will take place from August 28 to September 8, with up to 30 athletes to represent New Zealand. The Paris 2024 Olympic Games will be held from July 26 to August 11. New Zealand is expected to be represented by about 190 athletes across 22 sports. 

Image courtesy of Getty Images.

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