History of Whangārei Central Library buildings


New Central Library building design theme

The theme for the hanging Central Library developed around the 'Baskets of Knowledge' ('He Kete WaNānga'), referring to the universally known legend of Tane’s climb into the heavens.

Tānenuiarangi retrieved the baskets of wisdom from the celestial realm or heavens, known in Māori culture as Rangi-tū-hāhā.  He climbed to the uppermost heaven on the sacred vine (aka matua), and there he obtained the three baskets of knowledge.  

  • Te Kete Tuāuri contained the understanding we build up of the real world
  • Ko Te Kete Tuātea contained the knowledge we experience in ritual and prayer
  • Te Kete Aronui contained all worldly knowledge used in both positive and negative situations and translates as ‘that before us’ or the Nātural world.

When Tānenuiarangi descended from the heavens he established pou (Wānānga) or pillars of higher learning on earth. These Wānānga became training establishments of the tohunga (priests), who in turn relayed this higher learning on to society in portions that could be understood.

This legend reflects many Māori belief systems regarding the sacred nature of learning, and fits very neatly with the library concept.

Just as the marae in Māori society is a focal point for the spiritual, ancestral, chiefly and tribal values of the community, the public library provides space for the community to meet and to focus on information by and about the community.

Libraries are repositories for unique information relating to local history and cultural memory, and they collect, organise, preserve and provide access to it.


Paving design

Designer: Toi Maihi

The weaving pattern in the paving design in front of the hanging Central Library represents the connection from the heavens to the earth flowing into the building.

In Māori history the creation story talks about separation of Ranginui and Papatūānuku by their children. This paving design is the emotional response of Ranginui in relation to that separation.

Ranginui starts to cry gently - represented by dark stones on the paving - crying intensifies - more dark stones - sobbing - flood of tears at entrance forging its way through the doorway into the library.