The totara tree is a metaphor for Opaki School. Totara was the first born of Tane Mahuta - god of the forest, and therefore the totara is holder of knowledge and the most tapu (special & sacred) tree we have. Totara trees are naturally occurring in the Opaki area.
Local legend - Local Maori set up camp on the plains of Mokonui in an idyllic setting amongst the totara trees and under the gaze of Tirohanga (the hill that overlooks what is commonly known as Double Bridges). At some point in the 1600’s local Maori were gathering and smoking eels on racks above fires. They ran into trouble when strong NorthWest winds sparked a huge fire that burned through the Totara Forest which stretched from Opaki to the Waipoua River.
Outline of Totara Tree Concept:
The board is the umbrella/canopy or marumaru, the staff are the trunk or tiwai, the management are the tap root or paiaka. All of the adults combine to provide shelter, wisdom, education for the following groups as they grow/develop/learn within the shelter of the tree:
Tipu (seedlings or Year 1)
Mahuri (saplings or Year 2, 3 & 4’s)
Kahure (mature or Year 4, 5&6’s)
Aronui (Year 7&8’s)
Kete Aronui is the basket of knowledge of aroha, peace and the arts and crafts which benefit the Earth and all living things - one of the three baskets of knowledge. This basket relates to knowledge acquired through careful observation of the environment. It is also the basket of ritual, of literature, philosophy and is sometimes regarded as the basket of the humanities. The Year 7&8’s also represent the fruit of the tree which is ready to be picked and distributed out into other avenues.
The community that supports the tree/school is the grove or 'oro' surrounding the tree/school.
4 Totara trees have been planted behind the confidence course to represent the 4 syndicate groups. Each year the departing Year 8’s hand on the care of the tree to the following year so that the tree is handed down year to year and generation to generation as per tradition. From the time of planting onwards "the trees will hold the webs of myth and history of the school in its branches".