The Pacific Room in Parliament House was established to recognise the contribution Pacific peoples make to New Zealand society and Parliament. It was officially dedicated by the Speaker, Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt, in February 2002. Tangata Whenua, Pacific community leaders, Pacific leaders, and members of Parliament participated in a special ceremony.
The room showcases Pacific art works as well as gifts from Pacific nations to members of Parliament that are now held in the Parliamentary Collection.
The entranceway to the Pacific Room was commissioned by Parliamentary Service in consultation with the Pacific Arts Committee of Creative New Zealand. Artists from four Pacific nations worked on the carving to an overall design by Cook Island artist, Ian George. It was unveiled by the New Zealand members of Parliament of Pacific descent at the time the room was dedicated, and photographs of those four members are on display inside the room.
The carvers were:
- Fatu Feu’u (Samoa)
- Filipe Tohi (Tonga)
- Ian George (Cook Islands)
- Palalagi Manetoa (Niue)
The theme of the carving is the balance between ‘spiritual’ and ‘physical’ in Pacific cultures.
There are four totems in the work, two on each side of the door frame. The totems represent all Pacific Islands nations and in particular Samoa, Tonga, Niue, and the Cook Islands. Carvings on the doorway portray the Pacific peoples’ migration from their home islands to Aotearoa (New Zealand) and their settling in the new country. This voyaging is symbolised by the vaka (canoe) and Moana nui (Pacific Ocean) on the lintel (connecting piece of timber at the top of the door frame). This has dual symbolism, that of the sea (depicted by the sail), and the shark (depicted by the fin of the shark), and highlights the importance to Pacific nations of the sea and what lives within it.
The top two totems are based on traditional Cook Islands and Tongan designs, and are placed at the top to signify a strong male/female balance.designs,d The lower two totems are Samoan and Niuean designs and incorporate a greater mixture of Pacific cultural elements. The Niuean totem represents a father and son, and the Samoan totem represents the ali’I (navigator) whose past deeds have elevated him to the status of the gods.
The inclusion of sennet (rope) into the totems symbolises the binding of families into a tribe and community that works together. The sennet used is from the Cook Islands and Fiji, and was bound by the artists.
Below the lintel is a 6 panel stained glass window, also designed by Fatu Feu’u. This contains three symbols in a repeated pattern with a central theme of balance. The three symbols are frangipani (symbolising female), windmill (symbolising male), and a frigate bird (symbolising ancestral spirit).