Ngawha Prisoner Gifts Incredible Carving to Hospital

A huge and intricate carving has been donated from prisoners at Northland Region Corrections Facility prisoner to Bay of Islands Hospital. The 'Phoenix' theme of the carving represents the ‘rebirth’ of the hospital, which began Friday May 12 as the turning of the first sod at the hospital took place.

The hospital begins a year of construction this month and will emerge in 2018 with a new twenty-bed Medical Ward built above the new Accident and Medical department.  The two-storey building will have access via a lift and stairs and is for the relocation of the current General Ward.

The Accident & Medical department will provide the interface to Te Hauora O Pukepuke Rau, Ngāti Hine Health Trust’s new Integrated Whānau Wellness Centre,    with a single triage point to serve both the centre and hospital.

The carver asked for his whakairo (carving), which represents rebirth, to be donated to Bay of Islands Hospital at ceremony at Northland Region Corrections Facility at Ngawha on Friday May 5.

Northland Region Corrections Facility (NRCF) puts emphasis on its prisoners learning skills they can take away when released from prison, especially construction, carpentry and carving in its dedicated whare whakairo (carving room). The carvings are almost always gifted to schools, community buildings and whānau, and the prison regularly takes care of woodwork repair for community organisations.

When Bay of Islands Hospital takawaenga Mare Clarke was recently visiting the whare whakairo to look for a wishing tree for the redevelopment project, he was made aware that the prisoner had prepared the whakairo and wished to donate it, which led to the handover and blessing ceremony. 

The carver, who is from Auckland originally and hadn’t done much carving before arriving at Ngawha, has given two names to the carving. In English it is known as the Phoenix, which in Greek mythology is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn from ruins. The carving’s Māori name, Mai Te Ao Tawhito ki Te Ao Hou captures this theme and can be translated as ‘From the old world to the new world.’ At the handover ceremony there was much discussion about the appropriateness of the carving’s theme following the demolition of redundant parts of Bay of Islands Hospital so a better facility could be built; a Corrections officer spoke about the theme of the carving on behalf of the prisoner (who couldn’t attend the ceremony) and said the carving “represents the carver’s hope of rising up out of the confines towards freedom.”

There were speeches about the connection between Corrections restoring prisoners’ role in society and Northland DHB restoring prisoners’ health, waiata, himene, karakia and blessings from DHB and Department of Corrections staff, a tour of the whare whakairo, and a shared kai afterwards.

General Manager of Planning, Outcomes, Integrated Care and District Hospitals Sam Bartrum thanked Corrections for the prisoner “putting his soul” into the carving and said the taonga will “take pride” when it is placed in the new medical building - which is likely to be 2018.

Please find all updates on the BOI Hospital redevelopment at:

The Phoenix carving gifted to Bay of Islands Hospital

Corrections and Northland DHB staff gathered around the large Phoenix carving at Northland Region Corrections Facility.

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