People are more likely to live sustainably if they feel connected to each other and to place. Britomart is a place created to foster in-person connection: our social sustainability programme brings art, performance and conversation into the heart of the precinct. This section of the report covers some of the highlights of our efforts to bring people together.

Bon Voyage Good Trip Be Good

Our summer 2022/23 exhibition of the vintage photographs of John Rykenberg celebrated the maritime heritage of central Auckland.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, before mass air travel, John Rykenberg roamed Auckland’s Princes Wharf with his Leica 35mm camera and memorialised heady occasions full of new beginnings and emotional farewells. At Britomart, we worked with curator Frances Walsh, Auckland Libraries and the New Zealand Maritime Museum Hui te Ananui a Tangaroa to create an exhibition of some of Rykenberg’s more memorable photographs, along with ephemera such as menus and baggage tags from the ships leaving Auckland for the Pacific Islands and other ports around the world. The exhibition was a glimpse of another era, when downtown Auckland was the place that connected New Zealand to the rest of the world. It was supported by a small publication that visitors to the exhibition were invited to take home with them.

Te Tīmatanga at Britomart

A celebration of Takatāpui Māori creatives for Auckland Pride in February.

For Pride celebrations in February 2023, Britomart collaborated with Auckland Pride Kaiwhakahaere Takatāpui, Hāmiora Bailey, to showcase the work of three Takatāpui Māori artists: Maia Keane, Pounamu Wharekawa and Renati Waaka. Flags on Te Ara Tahuhu and high above Britomart (above and top right) were created by Pounamu Wharekawa (Ngāi te Rangi, they/ themme/ ia), who “wanted to concentrate on rangatahi in urban spaces and our connections to the water. Drawing from traditional knowledge of taniwha being kaitiaki of bodies of water, I’ve put my own spin on it and created an urban baddie kind of taniwha.” In the Atrium on Takutai (right), a selection of photographs by Renati Waaka (He/Him, Te Arawa, Tainui) wove together “stories of love, ancestry, and identity and express our inherent spiritual connection we have to Te Taiao,” Renati says. “This series of images was taken over the past year as a part of an ongoing project which explores themes of fluidity and the strength that we carry as we find our way back to ourselves. Elements of these images imitate the push and pull of the tides, the waves, and the currents, and reflect the motions in our navigation of self and place.” On the Pavilion Panels around Te Ara Tahuhu, Maia Keane (she/her, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Rongowhakaata) created a series of contemporary depictions of Manaia (left), the messengers between the earthly and spirit worlds. Each panel, Maia says, “is directly inspired by Manaia in carved poupou from various Marae I’ve visited throughout Aotearoa.” The series of works was entitled KO MANA A IA, and Maia says collectively they “represent a celebration of the flow of one’s identity. Each line that runs through these bodies tells a story of self-discovery. It can also be interpreted as the power in exploring and smashing the boundaries between the gender binary.”

New artwork in the Hayman Kronfeld Building

Two new art comissions deepend Britomart's sense of place.

The opening of the newly refurbished Hayman Kronfeld Building (a 5 Green Star-rated project) in March included two significant new artworks. In one of the Galway Street windows, a new artwork by Emily Parr pays tribute to her great-great-grandparents Gustav and Louisa Kronfeld, the building’s original owners. This ‘ula, or necklace, references Gustav and Louisa’s family home, which was named ‘Oli ‘Ula after a sweet-scented red flower. The ‘ula is strung with fabric flowers and hand-moulded ceramic beads which evoke natural forms in Samoa – Louisa was Samoan – such as shells, seed pods, stones, sand, and coral. There is a flower or bead for every descendant of Gustav and Louisa; a special bead hangs at the centre for all those yet to come. The artwork takes its name from a reflection by the artist’s great-grandfather, Samuel, on the familial network extending from Samoa to the world. In the lobby of the building, Āhuaiti’s Algorithm, a new painting by Shane Cotton (Ngāti Rangi, Ngāti Hine, Te Uri Taniwha), pays tribute to Āhuaiti, the female Ngāpuhi tīpuna, and acknowledges her place at the head of the iwi’s (and Cotton’s) whakapapa by locating her at the centre of the work. This work completes a trilogy of pieces by Shane in Britomart, which began with the five-storey mural, Maunga, in 2020, and includes the work Long Burning Flame Look to Whiria (2021) in the lobby of The Hotel Britomart.

Auckland Writers Festival Waituhi o Tāmaki

Streetside: Britomart brought writers and their fans for a special night out in Britomart in May.

In May, Streetside: Britomart brought the connective magic of the Auckland Writers Festival Waituhi o Tāmaki to Britomart for a lively night of free readings and declarations in five spaces: the loading dock of the Westpac and EY headquarters, PeddleThorp’s offices in the historic Northern Steamship Building, Generator Excelsior Stanbeth, the Allbirds store and the lobby of the newly refurbished Hayman Kronfeld Building. Hundreds of people turned out for the event to hear writers, poets and storytellers perform works on themes linked to the buildings they were in. Throughout the festival, the Pavilions and the Atrium on Takutai featured bold panels containing excerpts of the work of five New Zealand poets: poet laureate Chris Tse, Takunda Muzondiwa, Robert Sullivan, Joanna Cho and Laura Vincent – designed in spectacular style by Inhouse Design.

Red Bull Dance Your Style

Takutai Square becomes home to some of the city's sharpest dance moves.

In May, Takutai Square hosted Red Bull’s Dance Your Style event, a lively evening where dancers faced off to win a chance to compete at the World Championships. The competition was intense, but the atmosphere was friendly, despite so much being at stake. Hip-hop and freestyle dancer John Vaifale – known in competition as Happyfeet – was the eventual victor, taking the title and a trip to Frankfurt to compete in the world finals.

Britomart Backyard Battles

Monthly dance battles bring big moves and beats to Takutai Square.

In October, November and December, Britomart collaborated with dance collective Projekt Team to stage popular monthly dance battles, where a hugely diverse range of dancers – including some incredibly talented children – are paired up for Friday-night faceoffs in front of a panel of judges. Big crowds turned up every time to support their favourites and celebrate the humour and inventiveness of the dancers and their performances.

Matariki 2023

Kapa haka performances and a new exhibition put the focus on the future of Māori youth for the Māori New Year.

Matariki 2023 in Britomart featured a new photographic series on our Pavilion Panels and in the Atrium on Takutai developed in collaboration with Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi Marae and photographer Mataara Stokes. The photographs featured members of the kapa haka group from the kura at Hoani Waititi, along with the tauira’s thoughts on what Matariki meant to them. The photographs and thoughts were also featured on Britomart’s social media channels. The theme of the meaning of Matariki to these rangatahi was carried through into Britomart’s public programming for Matariki, which featured free lunchtime performances in Takutai Square from high school kapa haka groups from Te Wharekura o Hoani Waititi Marae, James Cook High School, and Te Uamairangi (featuring performers from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Kōtuku from Rānui and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Maungarongo from Ōwairaka Mount Albert).

Te Wiki o te Reo Māori

Celebrating te reo Māori with kai and kapa haka in Takutai Square.

We celebrated Māori Language Week with kapa haka performances and a hāngi in Takutai Square. Hāngi master Rewi Spraggon cooked for hundreds from his mobile hāngi pit, with hungry patrons encouraged to order their kai in te reo Māori thanks to bilingual menus handed out to people in the queue. Kapa haka performances by James Cook High School provided entertainment for the lunchtime crowds.


NZ Geographic Photographer of the Year

The country's best photographers get the chance to go big in Britomart.

For the third year running, Britomart worked with NZ Geographic magazine (the magazine’s team is Britomart-based) to display the finalists in the magazine’s annual Photographer of the Year awards on the precinct’s large-scale panels in Te Ara Tahuhu and the Atrium on Takutai. The panels, in a range of award categories including Wildlife, Portrait, Built Environment and Aerial, also invited passersby to vote for their favourite in the People’s Choice Award. The winners were announced at a ceremony at Daily Bread Britomart in late October.

Te Aho Mutunga Kore

A new collaboration with Auckland Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira celebrated Māori and Pasifika weaving and textiles and the communities that made them.

Britomart’s second collaborative project with Auckland Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira was a celebration of the museum’s collection of Māori and Pasifika weaving and textiles and the communities that make them. Te Aho Mutunga Kore, which translates as ‘the eternal thread’, is a new knowledge sharing centre at the museum which connects communities with these taonga and measina. The Britomart exhibition showcased some important objects from the collection, as well as including a series of portraits of community members with objects that bore personal significance for them. The series was supported with public performances by Pasifika groups in Takutai Square.

Late Night Art

Celebrating creativity in the central city.

Late Night Art is an annual event organised by Heart of the City featuring pop-up art activations throughout the central city. Britomart staged two events in Takutai Square for the balmy October evening – a contemporary dance performance choreographed by Ankaramy Fepulea’i, and a Siva Afi Samoan fire dance by Wāhine Toa Siva Afi. Hundreds of people gathered in the square to witness these performances and to enjoy the other events in the city that night.

Telly Tuita’s Tongpop

A Tongan artist’s examination of his heritage takes centre stage.

Britomart’s collaboration with the Auckland Art Fair in April featured artist Telly Tuita’s highly stylised self-portraits staged against tapa-like backdrops he created himself. In some of the works, he poses in shiny pink and blue bodysuits, assuming the roles of ‘Ofa and Tau, Tongan deities of love and war. Tuita says his works are ways of processing the culture of the place in which he was born but hasn’t visited in over 20 years, and figuring out how and where he belongs.

Britomart Cocktail Hour

Bringing back the cocktail trolley as a contemporary tool of connection.

Covid lockdowns brought stark clarity to the importance of social connection at the same time as flexible working made those connections, for some people, less straightforward to achieve. Britomart has responded with a range of initiatives that aim to remind people of the pleasure of social connection by providing easy invitations for them to do so. In November, this resulted in the launch of Britomart Cocktail Hour, an ongoing event covering two hours on Thursday lunchtimes in which bartenders serve free (and alcohol-free) cocktails from a cocktail cart custom-designed by theatre and exhibition designer Micheal McCabe in Takutai Square. A DJ plays tunes, and people enjoy their free drinks in the sun. The first few sunny sessions resulted in more than 500 drinks being given away, while tap-and-go terminals took donations for the Auckland City Mission to help spread the good cheer.

The Art of Black Grace

Contemporary dance delivered digitally in the Atrium on Takutai.

For a week in November, Britomart hosted an exciting new digital work from contemporary dance company Black Grace in the Atrium on Takutai. The Art of Black Grace was displayed on a large video screen with a display that combined new choreography performed by dancers Demi-Jo Manalo, Rodney Tyrell, Sione Fataua and Faith Schuster with artistic director Neil Ieremia’s application of paint swirls to a large canvas in the background of the screen. The work was inspired by Neil’s memories of his mother’s colourful mu’umu’u dresses, his father’s aloha shirts and the vibrant flora and fauna of the Pacific Islands. The work was created in association with Creative NZ, The Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi, and Foundation North.

Greening the city

Encouraging reforestation with our giveaway of native trees.

Our annual giveaway of native trees and plants to help reforest Auckland’s backyards has built quite a following over the five years it’s been running. Each year we’re seeing tree-adopters from previous years return to add to their plantations, many of whom come ready to ask detailed questions of nurseryman Caleb Scott, who takes time out from his job at Britomart’s sister property The Landing in the Bay of Islands to run free native planting workshops and help aspiring gardeners find the best plants for their backyards. Last April around 3500 seedlings were given away, and over $7000 was raised for the Motutapu Restoration Trust, which is reforesting one of Tāmaki Makaurau’s gulf islands as a pest-free native wildlife sanctuary. Mānuka, tī kouka and pōhutukawa remained popular as backyard trees, but it was the beautiful rengarenga lilies, with their delicate clusters of star-shaped white flowers, that were the first to be completely snapped up. We promoted the event with illustrations of native trees by artist Pounamu Wharekawa.

Reusable Tuesday

We put a free hot drink in every reusable cup.

To show (or remind) people how easy it is to ditch disposable coffee cups and use reusable ones instead, we put on free coffees and hot chocolates at every cafe in the neighbourhood one morning in September. Everyone who brought a clean, lidded reusable cup could enjoy a free hot drink of their choice – and hundreds of people took up the chance to warm up a chilly spring day with a complimentary cuppa.

Zero Carbon Breakfast

During Auckland Climate Festival, we helped serve up bowls of zero-carbon goodness.

In partnership with Blue Frog (breakfast cereals), All Good (oat milk and bananas), Raglan Food Co (coconut yogurt) and Everybird Coffee, the Britomart team gave out delicious free zero-carbon, vegan breakfast bowls to visitors to Takutai Square. It’s the third year we’ve held this activation, and every year it becomes more popular, which may be a sign of more people embracing a vegan or low-carbon lifestyle.

NEXT / Find out how Britomart's career programme fits into a broader view of sustainability with EY partner Chad Paraone.