The abundance of shellfish was one of the main reasons that drew the Maori settlers to the colder climates of New Zealand's South Island.
Though the abalone were first sought after as a food - Paua is definitely a delicacy - there's no doubt that from the earliest times, the shell of the Rainbow Paua was used for decorative purposes.
The Maori settlers used Paua inlay to put the fire of life into the eyes of the ancestral figures that were such an important part of the carvings in and around their marae (meeting houses). The rarer red tones of the paua shell were sought after for this purpose.
"Rangihaeata's Celebrated House" Painting, G F Angas 1822-1886 Alexander Turnbull Library
The Maori also used Paua to adorn their seagoing waka or canoes, each one of which carried on its prow, sides and sternpost a story in carving about the ancestors and lineage of their tribe.
Following in that tradition, today's waka rangitira - those wise men versed in the ancient craft of building waka - are using Paua to decorate the carvings on the canoes they are building to bring about a revival of the traditional boatbuilding and seamanship skills of the Maori people:
Waka Te Au Kaha of Whangaroa launched February 2003.