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Anticipation ahead of Pūkaha opening

Excitement is building in anticipation of the doors of Te Wānanga Taiao at Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre [PNWC] opening to the public for the first time this Friday.

“It is quite overwhelming to think about how much we have achieved with this project, especially during such a difficult time in history,” PNWC General Manager Emily Court told the Times-Age.

“The exciting thing is that this is just the start of even greater things for Pūkaha and our community.”

A project that’s the product of a 20-year vision, the education centre is a 916-square-metre facility that’s been designed to accommodate up to 120 people during the day and 40 people overnight.

A Provincial Growth Fund grant of $3.7 million from Kānoa – the Government’s Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit– helped to fund the new facility.

The creation of full marae with traditional carvings done by the Pūkaha team of kaiwhakairo [carvers] on the site has been led by mana whenua Rangitāne o Wairarapā and Rangitāne o Tamaki nui-ā-Rua, and honours the significance of the facility – both historically and as an important opportunity for the future.

“Our late kaumātua Jim Rimene had visions of a whare-wānanga where his mokopuna [grandchildren] could be taught about the forest while being in the forest, be taught to sing like the birds while sitting beside the birds, and learn stories of the past while being in a place where the past is etched in the trees and the whenua [land],” Rangitāne kaumatua Mike Kawana said.

“I am beyond proud to see his vision come to life.”

Tomorrow, a hautapu ceremony led by Rangitāne iwi will take place at Te Wānanga Taiao to celebrate Matariki, followed by a blessing ceremony of the new buildings.

Invited guests will attend the opening ceremony the following day, with cultural performances, speeches, and food.

At 1.30 pm on Friday, the centre will officially open to the public with a gold coin entry on a first-in-first-served basis.

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