Te Iwitahi was designed in close partnership with the Rōpū Kaumātua (the Hapū elders representative group), and as a result, the design is influenced by the creation narrative of Māoridom where the worldly and heavenly bodies and forces of nature are personified by Papatūānuku and Ranginui and their many children.
Each floor of Te Iwitahi reflects a journey through the natural world: starting at the ground level with earth, then the physical environment, then water, and finally the celestial realm on level 3, shown through colours, patterns, textures and room names.
The soaring space formed by the atrium is a modern take on the traditional Marae central ridge post, while also offering a unique gathering space for those about to enter Chambers.
The Rōpū Kaumātua also guided design elements of the surrounding landscaping, with features such as a kāpehu (compass) inlaid into the entrance path, pointing out significant landmarks in the area, night-illuminated celestial screens on the ātea (courtyard), showing constellations visible from the South Pacific and further afield.
The living walls of the building’s external stairwells are planted with a critically threatened leafy vine, endemic to Manawatāwhi (Three Kings Islands).
Above the entrance to Te Iwitahi, visitors are welcomed with greetings from a wide array of languages. This was developed in close partnership with the Whangārei Multi Ethnic Collective, and pays homage to the multi-cultural diversity of ethnicities within the Whangārei District.