Central Otago’s cultural history has come to the fore, with the unveiling of a tohu whenua, or landmark, in the Ida Valley.

A sculpture depicting the Ngai Tahu puraka, or myth, of Kopuwai — a giant who lived on the banks of the Mata-Au/ Clutha River with his twoheaded dogs — was unveiled opposite the Idaburn Dam, near Oturehua, in a small ceremony on Monday.

The project was commissioned by Transpower following the completion of its Clutha Upper Waitaki Line Project to increase power line capacity in Central Otago.

About 30 people attended the unveiling, which included a blessing and speeches from involved parties, followed by morning tea.

Transpower, Ida and Maniototo Valley community members and Mana Whenua celebrate a Pou erected near Oturehua on Monday. PHOTO: Gregor Richardson

Project director Roy Noble said the unveiling of the tohu whenua was recognition of the company’s working relationship with manu whenua.

‘‘Everyone being part of this has turned it into a success.’’

Transpower had been working with Aukaha, a mana whenua-owned consultancy group, to develop the project in the past 18 months.

Mr Noble said the location of the sculpture was chosen due to its relation to the story of Kopuwai.

‘‘In the distance is the Old Man Range and the Obelisk — it ties it all in.’’

Otakou mana whenua representative Paulette Tamati-Elliffe said the unveiling was a great opportunity to celebrate the visualisation of a cultural narrative.

‘‘As mana whenua, it really does represent our longstanding, enduring, intergenerational relationship we have with these places.’’

Seeing the project come to life had been amazing, she said.

‘‘To see it standing proudly there — reminding us of that narrative and our connection — is just so fulfilling.’’

When power infrastructure was first put on the land, there were few conversations with mana whenua and being approached by Transpower for the project was a positive step forward, she said.

‘‘[For] future generations to come — not just Kai Tahu — but for all people of New Zealand, it’s just a great visual remainder of our past.’’

Visualisation . . . Artist Ephraim Russell admires the tohu whenua that was unveiled in the Ida Valley.

Artist Ephraim Russell said the corten steel sculpture would last well in Central Otago’s unforgiving environment.

‘‘[Corten steel is] really good in harsh environments like this.’’

There had been much deliberation about how to best represent the purakau in one piece.

‘‘I work with the overall brief or concept which comes from the mana whenua — trying to illustrate the story as best we can.’’

Representing Kopuwai inside of the silhouette of the Obelisk ‘‘worked out well’’, he said.