Next three Pounamu Pathway attractions to be even more ambitious than the first

Four immersive story-telling experiences by Wētā Workshop on the West Coast will create a sense of pride, especially for tangata whenua.
10 January 2024

By: January 9, 2024

The Māwhera Pounamu Pathway centre in Greymouth opened on December 13 and will be one of four visitor centres in the region to highlight the culture and beliefs of the Poutini Ngāi Tahu, together with stories of the area’s European heritage.

Two more Pounamu Pathway experience centres will open in Haast and Westport this year, and a fourth in Hokitika in 2025.

The government granted $17.87 million from the provincial growth fund in 2020 and it was matched with $17m from Poutini Ngāi Tahu, which is made up of Makaawhio and Ngati Waewae rūnanga.

““It’s a return to the ancestral homeland to a place that, 150 years ago, our ancestors were squeezed out of and we’re back. We have the pathway right on the edge of the Māwhera Pā and it’s pretty special.””
— Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio chairperson Paul Madgwick
“It sort of sounds like we’re singing our own praises to say there’s nothing like this in New Zealand, but I think there’s nothing like this in the world, because it’s telling unique stories in a different way than we’ve seen before. While the Māwhera centre was the biggest and the first, it was not the most ambitious, he said. Even the smaller ones have their own unique character, their own unique strengths, their own unique stories.”
— Jason Aldous, Wētā Workshop’s creative development producer

Aldous said a team of about 300 creative people including painters, sculptors, illustrators, writers, photographers, welders and others pulled together a big vision.

Pounamu Pathway chief executive Toko Kapea said many people on the West Coast did not know some of the old stories, of how and why Ngāi Tahu came to the region.

He said Wētā Workshop used its creativity to tell Poutini Ngāi Tahu stories using modern technology, audio, video and sculpture.

“It will be a great cultural storytelling experience for anyone who comes in here. It’s set in a beautiful modern building. And for Greymouth, I think there'll be a sense of pride. The next centre to open would be the Pounamu Pathway-The Museum of Kawatiri in Westport at the end of this month. “The Kawatiri experience promises a contemporary museum experience, with the mission to tell the grand story of the Buller district, by introducing stories from ecology, coal, gold and pounamu to the incredible collection of stories found in Westport. “The museum consists of three experiences - wealth of the land, early settlement and ecstasy of gold.”
— Pounamu Pathway Chief Executive Toko Kapea

The Westport site will also feature artefacts from an archaeological dig in Carter's Beach that date back about 800 years, to the first Polynesian visitors.

The Haast centre in the existing Department of Conservation visitor centre would be the next to open in June, Kapea said.

“They already have a little museum site at the back of the visitor centre but we’re going to take the auditorium and create a really immersive video experience.”

Makaawhio representatives were involved in the process, and the experience would include heritage stories about Jackson Bay and the early settlers, Kapea said.

The Hokitika centre will be in a new building after the rūnanga’s pounamu store is demolished, and is expected to be open by the end of next year.

He said the Pounamu Pathway was separate but would “flow” with the new Dolomite Point Experience centre in Punakaiki.

The Punakaki project was also funded by the provincial growth fund but needed a government top-up when costs ballooned to almost $41m.

It will be gifted to Ngāti Waewae once it is complete, around spring 2024.

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