A vision by Ngāti Waewae has become a reality with the opening of the Pounamu Pathway in Greymouth.
The new tourism venture, inspired by Ngāti Waewae chair Francois Tumahai will bring to life the West Coast’s rich history and is expected to be the cornerstone of the region’s economic revitalisation.
“We’ve achieved a significant milestone with the Māwhera Pā, the first of many to come. We really are creating a world-first cultural experience here with the Pounamu Pathway. We’re putting Poutini Ngāi Tahu on a world stage, bringing opportunities to the whole region,” Tumahai said.
The Pounamu Pathway will comprise a series of interconnected centres in Kawatiri (Westport), Māwhera (Greymouth), Hokitika and Awarua (Haast) that will offer visitors an immersive journey through the traditions and history of the people of Poutini Ngāi Tahu.
Beginning with Māwherā Pā in Greymouth, located where the original pā of the ancestor Tūhuru stood and designed in the form of a traditional Māori rain cloak, visitors will be immersed in imagery and sound that present key elements of Māwhera’s history including Ngāti Waewae tīpuna, Ngāi Tahu’s treaty settlement, fishermen navigating the hazardous Greymouth bar, Chinese gold miners, signing the Arahura Deed, British whalers, and the giant atua creation story of Tū-te-raki-whanoa.
It will also feature a giant, hyper-realisitc figure of Tūhuru. Standing at a scale of 2.4:1, the figure is the result of a partnership between Poutini Ngāti Waewae and Wētā Workshop.
“The collaboration between Poutini Ngāi Tahu and Wētā Workshop has been an extraordinary journey. This partnership not only brings employment and economic opportunities to our town, it also allows us to open the door to a world of cultural significance. Our goal is to attract more visitors and encourage longer stays, therefore benefiting other local businesses and operators,” Grey District mayor Tania Gibson said.
Jason Aldous of Wētā Workshop, said working closely with the cultural committee was key to creating the extraordinary features of the projects.
“We embrace the role of creators and educators but with a commitment to thorough research and cultural consultation, ensuring these stories are not just told but brought to life in a respectful and impactful way.”
Cultural committee chair Paul Madgwick said the committee had worked hard to bridging the gap between sharing engaging stories while keeping them authentic to Poutini Ngāi Tahu.
“It’s essential that Poutini Ngāi Tahu retains authority and influence over the way our cultural narrative is portrayed. This not only ensures continuity but also empowers future generations.”
The technology doesn’t stop with the immersive experiences within each whare. Visitors can also embark on a quest for hidden treasures, unlock secrets and solve puzzles while exploring the area with the Pounamu Pathway app. When visitors travel to Māwhera they can hunt for unique tukutuku panels (woven panels) to unlock augmented reality pounamu (greenstone).
The next Pounamu Pathway Experience Centre, the Museum of Kawatiri at Westport, is due to open in January 2024. With a primary focus on coal, gold, and pounamu, this immersive destination will allow visitors to delve into the rich history and cultural significance of these resources.