‘One year to go’ until The British & Irish Lions Series in New Zealand was marked on 3 June with an only-in-New-Zealand cultural ceremony involving the presentation of carved taiaha - a traditional Maori staff used in challenge - which will have significance for competing teams on the field as well as visitors coming to watch and experience the local culture and hospitality.
The ceremony centred on seven traditional Māori taiaha or spear-shaped weapons, which will become the official trophies for the 2017 series. The precious taiaha were hand-carved at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua and blessed before being presented to mayors and representatives of the seven host regions at the one-year-to-go celebration in Auckland.
New Zealand’s Māori culture plays a leading role in the spirit of rugby and is most evident in the haka or battle cry performed by the All Blacks before each game. Taiaha are also associated with a challenge and were chosen as trophies for their cultural meaning. The weapon is used in the wero - the traditional Māori challenge during a pōwhiri or formal welcoming ceremony. A wero is commonly given to heads of state and visiting dignitaries welcomed to New Zealand.
The special Lions Series taiaha will spearhead promotion in each host region during the 12-month build up to the series, before being awarded to winners of each match played in Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.