Special Group 171 Tū Ngātahi

  • Pou Auaha / Creative Directors
    Stu Mallarkey, Sarah Shepherd, Arnya Karaitiana
  • Ringatoi Matua / Design Director
    Heath Lowe
  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Members
    Rory Gallery, Hugo Parcell, Sam Hall, Janet Hale, Madeleine Smart, Casey King, Carolyn Ihaia, Gavin Le Claire
  • Kaitautoko / Contributor
    Arvid Eriksson
  • Client
    Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao


For International students in NZ, the pandemic has been challenging. Being away from family and dealing with lockdowns and closed borders has been stressful and unsettling for all in this community.

In response, Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao, with its intrinsic values of inclusiveness, Kaitiakitanga and Manaakitanga, developed Tū Ngātahi – Stand Together.

The aim of the Tū Ngātahi initiative was to assure international students that they are valued and supported members of our community and celebrate the vital part they play in New Zealand culture.


During a once-in-a-lifetime event, Tū Ngātahi gave New Zealand’s education community the means to express solidarity with vulnerable international students.

At the heart of Tū Ngātahi is a bespoke pounamu, a gift from Aotearoa to our international students and a physical symbol of NZ’s care and kindness to our guests.

The initiative’s central motif, our pounamu is an acknowledgment of the warm bond between Aotearoa and the many cultures who come here to learn. Its Pikorua Twist design is inspired by the pikopiko fern whose fronds curl around one another, symbolising connection and friendship.

Inspired by our pounamu, enamel pins were created as symbols of support, and distributed to international students and industry representatives nationwide. The pins were housed in packs of two. Recipients were asked to wear one and gift one to a friend, further illustrating our support for each other.

An accompanying film documented the crafting of the pounamu, acknowledged our international students and explained Tū Ngātahi to ensure all international students felt the support of Aotearoa.


We worked closely with stakeholders to ensure the correct tikanga was observed. Ed Tuari, ENZ’s Kaitohu Matua Māori, consulted on our Pikorua Twist design and supported our naming process, ultimately developing Tū Ngātahi in consultation with Māori language proponent and translator, Te Haumihiata Mason. The pounamu was carved by Ngai Tahu-registered carver, Dean Taylor.

Our pin design honoured the pounamu, rather than mimicking it. We simplified the pounamu’s fluid curves, three-dimensional form and rich colours. Using flat form, block colour and geometric shading modernised the pounamu as a simple, powerful symbol.

ENZ helped the wider education community participate by distributing the pins for them to wear and share. A toolkit of brand assets was supplied to organisations so they could show support for the initiative across internal and public communications – from posters and social media posts, to zoom backgrounds and customisable email signatures.

To support the emotive gesture, ENZ also pivoted its online platform, NauMaiNZ, to provide practical support in the form of timely and useful COVID-19 information specific to international students.

To date, 20,000+ pins have been shared with regular requests for more coming through. Pins have been spotted at press conferences and the national news. The education community has shared and warmly supported the initiative, with messages including ‘This is love’ from a Colombian student, and ‘Just awesome’ from Meng Foon, Human Rights Commissioner.