Pania is iconic, and one of Ahuriri/Napier’s most visited attractions.
On June 10, 1954, a 1.5 metre statue of Pania was unveiled at Ahuriri Marine Parade by then Prime Minister, Sidney Holland.
The statue was commissioned by members of the Thirty Thousand Club after the Anglican Bishop of Aotearoa related the legend of Pania to them. Several students from Hukarere Girls College were photographed as models for the statue, and eventually, Mei Irihapiti Robin (now Mei Whaitiri), was selected.
A clay likeness of the photograph of Mei and an actual traditional Piupiu skirt were made by the Italian Marble Company of Carrara in Carrara, Italy. The clay model was then used to produce the bronze statue.
Justin and Sarah from The Breeze Hawke's Bay caught up with 83-year-old Mei recently to chat about the experience and what life has been like as "Pania", and take her out to the Reef for the very first time.