Regional | Taranaki Maunga

Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa to underwrite construction of new visitor centre on Mt Taranaki

Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa will take the lead role in the project. Photo / Alyssa Smith / NZME

By Robin Martin, RNZ

Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa is to underwrite the construction of a new visitor centre on Mt Taranaki.

A $3 million upgrade of the North Egmont site was previously announced as part of the $13m Taranaki Crossing project.

Now the iwi, which is partnering with the Department of Conservation and the regional development agency Kānoa, will take the lead role.

Te Kotahitanga chairwoman Liana Poutu said the project was close to the iwi’s heart and it wanted to get the ball rolling.

“The site is significant to Te Atiawa, it’s in our rohe and there’s an opportunity really for us to reconnect our people with our tipuna, with our ancestor. So, for many years we’ve had a disconnection and it just provides an opportunity for us to reconnect and also to provide an enhanced visitor experience.”

Poutu said the facilities would be improved and people could expect a multi-functional building that could be used for more than just visitor services, which DoC would still provide at the centre.

“I think the biggest thing that people can expect is to be exposed to some of our cultural narratives around this particular place, around our iwi, our region, our hapū.

“I think all around it’s going to be a much better space and more user-friendly.”

Pouto said the centre would have a new — as yet undisclosed — name and the iwi was excited to be getting the project underway.

“It’s going to be a lot of work, there’s a lot of things to be done and we are working under quite a tight timeframe ... but we are really excited to be improving on the existing facility and also to be able to share some of our cultural narratives.”

Poutu would not reveal how much Te Atiawa was underwriting the project for, but said it was likely to cost more than the $3m the Government has already committed to the project.

TOA Architects would design the centre. It had experience with similar facilities including Te Motu a Hiaroa Marae and Visitor Centre, Hauturu o Toi/Little Barrier Island Visitor Centre for Ngāti Manuhiri and DoC, among other notable projects.

Pouto said TOA would work closely with Te Kotahitanga to facilitate engagement with hapū and iwi to strengthen their hononga (connection) to this site once more.

DoC Hauraki-Waikato-Taranaki regional director Daniel Heinrich said the partnership to deliver this project was important for Taranaki.

“We’re very proud to be working with Te Kotahitanga and Kānoa on this project, as it strongly reflects some of the fundamental aspects of our Treaty of Waitangi partnership and enhances that vital relationship.”

Kānoa principal regional adviser for Taranaki Bridget Sullivan said a new fit-for-purpose visitor centre would play an important role in supporting people coming to enjoy the Taranaki Crossing.

“With the commitment and project management of Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa, the new centre is set to offer visitors a much-richer experience during their time on Taranaki maunga.”

Construction of the new centre was anticipated to begin in late 2023.

The present North Egmont Visitor Centre would be operating while the new one was built, and deconstructed as required.