Spectacular new visitor centre for Punakaiki

Anyone who is lucky enough to have been there will tell you that Punakaiki is a very special place. And soon a spectacular new $26 million visitor centre at Dolomite Point will add to the experience.

The centrepiece will be a state of the art ‘exhibition experience’ created by The Gibson Group of Wellington.

Visitors will be treated to an extraordinary world of immersive sound and light displays, which tell the stories and history of Punakaiki from the tectonic forces that shaped the kaarst geology, to the manawhenua who discovered it; Pākehā explorers, early settlers, cavers, the creation of the Paparoa National Park, and the iconic Coast Road community.

Inside the exhibition they will be greeted by virtual wahine toa (woman warrior) with a wero (spear). This feature reflects the fact that Ngāti Waewae is one of the few iwi that allows women to perform the wero.

Project manager Phil Rossiter says the project has involved an immense amount of research, aided by Ngāti Waewae and local experts including caver Neil Silverwood and the late Punakaiki historian Les Wright.

Once completed, the building will be gifted to Ngāti Waewae by the Government.

Ngāi Tahu board member Kara Edwards said she took her grandchildren to Punakaiki recently and “there is nothing there to reflect the history of manawhenua or their presence there. But when this centre is built we will come back and my grandchildren will for the first time see themselves reflected in this place. The importance of that for Ngāti Waewae rangatahi cannot be measured.”

Manawhenua blessed the project last weekend at a ceremony to turn the first sod at the site and building is set to begin later this year. This ambitious project includes a Department of Conservation (DOC) information centre, community meeting room, and offices for Ngāti Waewae. It will also make Punakaiki safer and more accessible for all visitors, with a new car park and highway crossing, and walking and cycling paths.


Images courtesy of Sheppard & Rout LtdDolomite Point Redevelopment Project