New Zealand Post - official issuer of New Zealand stamps & commemorative coins

Matariki 2012 - Maori Rock Art

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The Matariki 2012 stamp issue paid tribute to Māori rock art - a unique art form that gives fascinating insights into the earliest people of Aotearoa.

Issue information

Matariki is celebrated throughout New Zealand, but in the south, Puaka (Rigel, part of the Orion constellation) appears in the sky at the same time as Matariki, and is widely acknowledged.

Māori rock art is visible throughout the country and the stamps in this issue depicted examples of rock art documented in Te Waipounamu (the South Island) where more than 500 sites have been recorded to date.

Rock art is applied to a variety of stone types, and while the common perception is that rock art was created using a burnt stick, the majority of the ‘drawings’ in Te Waipounamu appear to have been applied as pigment in solution. The style of Māori rock art is similar to that from wider Polynesia, suggesting that it was a practice brought to New Zealand by its earliest people.

Stamps Reflecting New Zealand's Past

Māori rock art gives a glimpse of New Zealand’s history and culture, and the drawings included on the six self-adhesive stamps in this issue portrayed animals now long extinct, representations of everyday life and depictions of the supernatural.

The rauru (spiral design) on the stamps paid respect to Rangi and Papa, and the light and knowledge that came about from their separation. The colours used in the rauru reflect the land and environment, and the koru represent growth and life and pay respect to the past, present and future.

New Zealand Post was the principal sponsor of the Auckland and Wellington Matariki festivals.


New Zealand Post wishes to acknowledge the following for their assistance and guidance in bringing together this special stamp issue: Matariki 2012- Māori Rock Art:

  • Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua, Te Rūnanga o Waihao, Te Rūnanga o Moeraki - for permission to celebrate the rock art images from their takiwa
  • The Trustees of the Ngāi Tahu Māori Rock Art Trust
  • Amanda Symon, Curator, Ngāi Tahu Māori Rock Art Trust - Guest writer
  • Brian Allingham, Field Officer, South Island Māori Rock Art Project - Guest writer
  • Tewera King - Te Reo translation
  • Rob Brown - Photographer
  • Dave Burke - Stamp designer

Product Listing for Matariki 2012 - Māori Rock Art

Click on image to enlarge.

Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 70c 'Pouākai, Pareora' self-adhesive stamp.

Pouākai or ‘birdmen’ are partbird, part-human subjects that occur widely in Māori rock art in Te Waipounamu and wider Polynesia. The small birds on the outstretched wings of this figure are rarely depicted, and have so far only been recorded in two
other sites.

Single Stamp

Single 70c 'Tiki, Maerewhenua' self-adhesive stamp.

At more than a metre high, this work is drawn on the ceiling of a small limestone shelter and depicts a seated tiki figure, drawn in profile. Profiled tiki figures such as this are sometimes placed back to back, the figures joining to form the frontal view of a single human figure.

Single Stamp

Single $1.40 'Mōkihi, Opihi' self-adhesive stamp.

This drawing is thought to show two people on a mōkihi, a water craft made from raupō (bulrush) used to navigate the fast-flowing rivers of the southern regions. Rock art sometimes depicts everyday activities, giving us rare glimpses into the lives of the ancestors.

Single Stamp

Single $1.90 'Te Puawaitanga, Waitaki' self-adhesive stamp.

This unique figure is commonly interpreted as a kiwi chick within an eggshell. Copied from a site on the banks of the Waitaki River, this image is one of the most frequently re-used rock art designs in contemporary Ngāi Tahu culture.

Single Stamp

Single $2.40 'Tiki, Te Ana a Wai' self-adhesive stamp.

Tiki figures may symbolise the people of the time, their ancestors or perhaps the generations to come. This drawing features one of the classic design elements in southern Māori rock art - the blank central space in the body and head of the tiki.

Single Stamp

Single $2.90 'Taniwha, Opihi' self-adhesive stamp.

Drawings capturing supernatural taniwha can be found at a number of rock art sites in Te Waipounamu. This figure is one of two large interlocking taniwha. The entire composition is more than four metres wide, drawn on the ceiling of a shelter near the Opihi River.

Miniature Sheet Mint, used or cancelled gummed miniature sheet. $10.00
First Day Cover First day cover with six self-adhesive stamps affixed. $10.50
Miniature Sheet First Day Cover First day cover with gummed miniature sheet affixed. $10.50
Presentation Pack Written by Amanda Symon, Curator, Ngāi Tahu Māori Rock Art Trust, the presentation pack contained a set of six stamps (in two self-adhesive strips), the first day cover and the gummed miniature sheet. The presentation pack also featured stunning imagery throughout that was hand-painted by the stamp designer, Dave Burke. $29.90
Limited Edition The Matariki 2012 stamp issue was not complete without the limited edition. Inside was a booklet written by Brian Allingham, Field Officer, South Island Māori Rock Art Project. A number of exclusive stamp products were also contained within the limited edition, including a unique first day cover signed by Brian Allingham, a numbered, imperforate miniature sheet, a complete set of stamps and colour separations of the $2.90 stamp. $135.00

Technical information

Date of issue: 6 June 2012
Number of stamps: Six self-adhesive stamps
Stamps, miniature sheet, first day covers and presentation pack designed by: Dave Burke Design, Auckland, New Zealand
Denominations: 70c (x2), $1.40, $1.90, $2.40 and $2.90
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print Ltd by offset lithography
Number of colours: Four process colours
Stamp size and format: 30mm x 40mm (horizontal)
Paper type: Self-adhesive: Tullis Russell PSA red phosphor stamp paper 210gsm; Gummed miniature sheets printed on Tullis Russell 104gsm red phosphor
Number of stamps per sheet: 25
Perforation gauge: 13.33 x 13.60
Special blocks: Plate/imprint blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least six stamps from a sheet. Barcode blocks were available in A and B formats.
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 5 June 2013.