$18m for West Coast Pounamu Pathway

The West Coast has been given an $18 million boost with four new Government-funded visitor centres.
07 November 2023

Stuff Travel - 16th June 2020

West Coast Reporter: Joanne Carroll

The new "experience centres" will be part of a pounamu pathway for visitors to learn about the West Coast's culture and history. Parliamentary Under Secretary Fletcher Tabuteau made the announcement at the Arahura Marae near Hokitika on Tuesday. He said the $17.87m state-of-the-art tourist attractions would be built in Haast, Hokitika, Greymouth and Westport.
“Four new visitor experience centres in separate locations across the West Coast will support the region’s tourism operators, boost sustainable employment and provide upskilling opportunities for local people.”
— Parliamentary Under Secretary Fletcher Tabuteau
“Over 50 jobs will be created through the construction, management and operation of the hubs. We know that by investing in the West Coast tourism sector now, the region will be in a strong position not only to tap into the domestic tourism market, but also be ready for when international visitors return.”
— Parliamentary Under Secretary Fletcher Tabuteau

The project would encourage visitors to stay longer in the region, he said. “The digital nature of the hubs also ensures that content can be continually adjusted according to the needs of the tourism sector." The first hub will start to be built in Haast later this year, with all four expected to be completed by 2023.

He said the PGF has given $145.2 million for projects in the West Coast region, which was earmarked as a surge region with priority given to projects boosting the economy of the West Coast. The West Coast had hit hard times with the loss of 1599 jobs since 2012, after a downturn in the mining industry.

“I’m pleased to be supporting this latest investment in a project that will boost the West Coast region by diversifying its economic reliance on mining and agriculture, and put the region in a strong position over the long-term to capitalise on future tourism,” Tabuteau said.

The Provincial Growth Fund previously pledged a $25.6M redevelopment of Punakaiki on including a visitor centre, which will be given to Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae to own and run once complete.

Ngāti Waewae chairman Francois Tumahai said the project was a major initiative for Ngāti Waewae.

"It's going to grow our capacity for hapu and jobs and also boosts our mana on the Coast. We have been in the background for many years but now the community understands that we are a serious player," he said.

A company called Te Ara Pounamu Ltd has been set up to run the hubs. A chief executive will be appointed soon and its directors have already been appointed by the Government – Tony Williams, of the Williams Group, Ngāi Tahu chairwoman Lisa Tumahai and Wally Stone.

The shareholders of Te Ara Pounamu Ltd are Ngāti Waewae, Maakawhio and Development West Coast.

The four hubs making up the pathway would be: a rebrand of the Coaltown Museum in Westport; a new building near the railway station in Greymouth which would be owned by Mawhera Inc and leased back to Te Ara Pounamu Ltd; a refitted Haast visitor centre, and a new building in Hokitika. The existing Ngāti Waewae pounamu shop in Hokitika would be demolished to make way for the purpose-built hub.

Meanwhile, construction work is beginning on the $9.36m Government-funded Kawatiri Coastal Trail between Westport and Charleston. The 55km trail will be built by Buller District Council-owned contractor Westreef Services.

“The project will employ over 30 local people in construction, project management, design, engineering, ecology and archaeology which is providing economic stimulus post Covid-19 to this region," he said. “The creation of the family-friendly heritage cycle and walk trail is in full development and makes the most of the West Coast’s unique surroundings. The trail winds its way through gold rush heritage sites, areas of high significance to Ngāti Waewae to highlight the region’s rich history."

It is expected to be open by 2022.

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