Maungawhau tihi boardwalk wins national award

Design that unfailingly puts protection and preservation of the Tūpuna Maunga to the fore saw a Tūpuna Maunga Authority project win a national award recently.

The Maungawhau Tihi Boardwalk project won the Parks, Open Spaces and Recreation category at the Tuia Pito Ora / New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architecture (NZILA) awards on 13 October.

The boardwalk was opened by the Tūpuna Maunga Authority (TMA) in 2020 to protect the very busy Tūpuna Maunga and enhance the visitor experience. Its path follows the contours of the tihi (summit), carefully winding past tūāpapa (terraces) and roofed rua (pits) for storing crops.

From a wide viewing deck at the lower northern tihi, visitors enjoy spectacular views over the city centre, Waitematā Harbour, and the network of Tūpuna Maunga across Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland.

View from above of boardwalk stretching over maunga, with harbour in the background


TMA Chair Paul Majurey says, ‘For the Tūpuna Maunga Authority, the Maunga are always the priority. It’s gratifying to see this outstanding mahi - to protect and preserve Maungawhau and improve its already-celebrated visitor experience - recognised by design peers.’

Maungawhau was one of the largest and most important pā in Tāmaki Makaurau and is of immense cultural, spiritual, and historic significance to 13 iwi and hapū of Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau. The 196m tall Maungawhau receives the highest visitor numbers of the 14 Tūpuna Maunga governed and managed by the TMA.

Restraint in design

The TMA commissioned landscape architects Isthmus Group to design the wood, steel and steel mesh structure. Isthmus describes the winning design as one “underpinned by TMA's core values and management plans, and integrated landscape planning.”

“[The boardwalk] sits quietly, recessively, simply protecting and amplifying the most essential element: the Maunga and experience of this truly unique landscape.”

People on a boardwalk with view to harbour and Sky Tower


The TMA brought together Isthmus, support from Andrew MacKenzie (then with Stellar Projects) and HEB Construction, whom it commends for its outstanding focus on a high-quality finish and its respect for the Maunga throughout the construction phase.

The judging panel noted that the boardwalk 'exhibits restraint in design which ensures that the values of the maunga it sits on and the protection of wāhi tapu have been given priority…The site is a vivid example of how cultural landscape can be elevated without the placement of motifs everywhere.’ Read more from the judges at the NZILA Maungawhau Tihi Boardwalk showcase.

Ongoing guardianship

‘Our vision for the Maunga is preservation of this taonga for generations to come,’ says Paul Majurey. The works on Maungawhau are part of a programme to properly protect all 14 Tūpuna Maunga through track improvements, while simultaneously working towards a UNESCO World Heritage Bid.

Further construction is now underway on Stage 2 of the Maungawhau tihi, with completion projected for March 2023. The end of the works will see an extension of the timber and steel platforms, conversion of a significant portion of the carpark into a gathering space and the addition of a wide range of native planting, which will reflect the flora that has always been present on the maunga and increase native species habitats.