About Te Wānanga Whakairo

“Ehara i a te rākau te whakaaro, kei ā te Tohunga tārai i te rākau te whakaaro – It is a carver, not the wood that has the understanding – If you forget your ancestors, you too are forgotten”

Since the first intake at Te Wānanga Whakairo, many young Māori from iwi (tribes) throughout New Zealand have been taught the Māori practice of wood carving under the expert guidance of master carvers who were once trainees at the school.
In 1967, seven carving apprentices were selected from throughout the country to train under master carver Hone Te Kauru Taiapa – a student of the first Wānanga Whakairo. Part of that 1967 group are present day New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute master carvers, Clive Fugill and James Rickard.

The school has been located in Te Whakarewarewa Valley since 16 January 1967, but it was initially established after legislation was passed in 1926 to preserve Māori arts and crafts, under the auspices of prominent Māori politician and lawyer Sir Apirana Ngata.

Many of the prominent wharenui (meeting houses) throughout New Zealand were carved by the men who were part of the first Wānanga Whakairo intake in 1927. Today’s graduates continue to build and restore wharenui throughout the country.

Course Information

NZMACI is mandated to train Māori from iwi (tribes) across New Zealand. Applicants for this school must be male, over 18 years of age and of Māori descent.

A maximum of five ākonga (students) are selected each year.

This tohu (qualification) is for three years and is 40 hours per week, 47 weeks of the year.

Through the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute Act 1963 (History) the Institute has the ability to award tohu to any person having special training in Māori arts, crafts or culture. The ability to independently recognise and confer qualifications remains a unique attribute of this organisation to this day.

Study Programme

During their study, the school’s carvers have the opportunity to be involved in major Kaupapa (initiatives) on-site, throughout New Zealand and overseas. The outcome is two-pronged – it fulfills NZMACI’s cultural perpetuation, protection and promotion mandate and exposes students to environments which help them see first-hand how knowledge, history, and ideas are manifested through material culture.

Students are taught:

  • The techniques and skills required to transmit Māori concepts and kōrero (narratives) through carving and to create different taonga Māori  (treasures)
  • Materials used in traditional carving as well as practice in drawing and painting
  • How to produce carving for each of the eight known tribal styles
  • How to design and manufacture a Pātuki, TekoTeko and long and short hand weapons
  • About waka functions, spirituality, design and manufacture
  • The historical and spiritual significance of Taonga and manufacture including Taonga puuoro (Māori instruments)
  • The historical and spiritual significance of customary practices used by tūpuna (ancestors)
  • Functions and manufacture of whare
  • How to select logs and the appropriate ceremonies to accompany this selection

Meet The Tutors

Aaron is a Pouako for Te Wānanga Whakairo. Aaron graduated from Te Wānanga Whakairo in 1992. Aaron is looking forward to his new role and is excited about this new journey with our Tauira.

Shane is a Pouako for Te Wānanga Whakairo. Inspired by Lionel Grant’s carvings, Shane decided to learn the art himself, graduating from NZMACI Te Wānanga Whakairo (Wood Carving School) in 2017. Shane’s skill set then lead to his current position with us working on projects New Zealand wide, which he loves.

I'm considering study at The National Wood Carving School

Application for NZMACI

We are now seeking applications for Te Wānanga Whakairo Rākau o Aotearoa (National Carving School). Applicants must be of Māori descent, Male 18 years old or over and be able to demonstrate a competency in Māori art and/or design and have an ability and willingness to interpret and understand the theory component of this qualification. To maintain the standard and quality of our graduates, places are strictly limited. Applications for these positions close at 5PM, 31 January 2021 Please email chanel@nzmaci.com for more information.


Application forms are available from the NZMACI office at Te Puia or you can Download the form here: