Land Wars Museum a step closer

An artist's impression of the Pukehinahina/Gate Pā cultural centre. Photo / Supplied via LDR

The Tauranga community has shown overwhelming support for a cultural centre that will tell the story of the New Zealand land wars.

The proposed national institute of the New Zealand land wars would be built on the Gate Pā Recreation Reserve, the site of the Battle of Pukehinahina (Gate Pā).

Commissioners were presented with the public's feedback on the proposal to reclassify part of the land at the reserve during a Tauranga City Council meeting on Monday.

In July, the commissioners voted to support the reclassification "in principle" subject to public consultation.

The council's strategic property advisor, Rachael Williams, said they had a "really positive" outcome from the public consultation that ran from 12 September 12 to October.

Of the 63 submissions received, 56 were in support of the proposed reclassification, six strongly opposed it and one was neutral.

Common themes from the written submissions included it being a "very appropriate use of the land", having a cultural centre or museum in Tauranga was "long overdue" and that the site was a place of "immense historic importance".

An overhead view of the land at Gate Pā Reserve which could be the site of a future New Zealand Land Wars institute. Photo / Tauranga City Council via LDR

On submitter wrote: "For far too long, Tauranga has not had any strong cultural connections to the history of the area and an information centre, like the one proposed, will be instrumental in ensuring the korero and history of our region is maintained."

"There is an urgent need to recognise Tauranga's history and it is shameful we don't already have such a facility," another said.

Those opposed had concerns around whether there would be enough parking for the centre, the impact it may have on the nearby residents, and who would pay for the building and ongoing operation costs.

One submitter claimed it was "another museum project with a race-based tinge".

Hearings were set for those wishing to speak to their submissions during the meeting on Monday, but none of those submitters were present.

Commission chair Anne Tolley said it was a "historically significant site not just for Tauranga but for the whole of New Zealand".

"Certainly with the compulsory curriculum of New Zealand history in our schools it's going to become even more important as the years go by."

In 2020, the council received a proposal from Pukehinahina Charitable Trust, in partnership with mana whenua Ngāi Tamarāwaho, to establish a cultural and historic centre on the Gate Pā Recreation Reserve.

Ngāi Tamarāwaho representative Buddy Mikaere said the centre would help raise Tauranga's profile. Photo / Sun Media via LDR

Ngāi Tamarāwaho representative Buddy Mikaere previously told Local Democracy Reporting the national institute would be the only one of its kind in the country.

The centre would recognise the significance of the Battle of Gate Pā and other battles.

On 29 April 1864 the Battle of Gate Pā was fought on a ridge known as Pukehinahina. The pā consisted of two redoubts with trenches and bunkers to trap the British. Māori were successful in their defence, with 35 British troops killed and 75 wounded, twice the estimated Māori casualties.

Mikaere said the centre was "very important" and would help raise Tauranga's profile.

Reclassification of around 6150m2 of the reserve is required in order to progress the plans.

A decision whether or not to reclassify the land will be made by the commissioners at a meeting on 28 November.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Local Democracy Reporting