In Māori mythology, the demigod Māui used a fishhook fashioned from his grandmother’s jawbone (symbolic of wisdom) to reach down into the ocean and bring up the North Island.
Māori have been in the North Island since the first waka (sea-going canoes) landed there over 80 years ago. In that time tikanga Māori (Māori culture) has embedded itself deeply in the land. There are many sacred sites over the entire island, many of them held closely within the stories of the tribes who inhabit each area.
While some areas hold particular significance for Māori and their descendants, others are woven into the kete (basket) of our combined Māori and pakeha (European) culture. Few of us, for example, would be aware that the marae (meeting place) at Parihaka is the birthplace of the concept of civil disobedience, or that this philosophy, developed by two Māori chiefs, Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, would provide the basis for what Mohandas Ghandi would later achieve for his people. The people here talk about how the Ghandi family return every few years to pay their respects to the memory of these two rangatira (chiefs).
The North Island has more people - and more labyrinths than South Island. Curiously, it seems that all the labyrinths are outdoor labyrinths.
While some labyrinths were initially of grass, the maintenance can become an issue and some have been edged with more permanent materials. The Mahara Park labyrinth near Tapu in the Coromandel has been successfully altered from having earthen walls to having hedge plants. The labyrinth at Te Moata, near Tairua, has clay pathways lined by river stones. It also has spiral stones made individually at a local pottery, each with its own labyrinth - almost like a fractal - labyrinths within labyrinths.
There is one labyrinth at a hospital - in the grounds of the Hutt Hospital. This permanent labyrinth was successfully moved from an earlier site. The New Plymouth labyrinth is in the Bell Block Cemetery. Others are at churches, retreat centres or simply in gardens.
As in other countries, the pattern of labyrinths takes two predominant forms: either the classic seven-circuit form or the more complex 11-circuit medieval or "Chartres-style" labyrinths.
More on the typology of labyrinths: