8 April 2019
National experts in culture, history and tourism have thrown their support behind Te Ara Wai, the new discovery centre and museum to be built in Te Awamutu.
Waipa District Council has committed $7.2 million to build the facility and is seeking more in external funding. A further $4.86 million has been ring-fenced to develop the district’s heritage sites, including key New Zealand Land Wars sites. It includes building a mobile-friendly website and digital platform – Waipā Journeys – to be launched later this year.
Council has received heavy-weight support for the project including from Dr Arapata Hakiwai from Te Papa Tongarewa (Museum of New Zealand). In a letter, Dr Hakiwai said Te Ara Wai has an important role in pushing momentum about New Zealand’s early history. Historians and authors including Dr Vincent O’Malley (The Great War for New Zealand) have also backed Waipā’s initiative.
Te Ara Wai is also supported by the New Zealand History Teachers’ Association and multiple schools including Te Awamutu College and Cambridge High School. Cambridge High School’s assistant principal Marcel Kuijpers said Te Ara Wai would “enhance the sharing of Waipā’s powerful and nationally significant stories”. Te Awamutu College principal Tony Membery said there was a strong focus nationally on addressing the lack of New Zealand history being taught to students.
“Waipā is incredibly rich in history and that history needs to be appreciated and understood by all New Zealanders.”
Mayors and MPs around the Waikato region are backing the project. Waikato Mayoral Forum chair Alan Livingston said there was a “real shortcoming” in telling the stories of New Zealand’s early history and that alongside Iwi, these stories “must be told”.
Hamilton & Waikato Tourism, which markets the region to visitors, backs the project 100 per cent. Chief executive Jason Dawson said Waipā heritage projects have the “potential to unlock wider economic, social, cultural and environmental benefits for Waipā and its communities”.
Creative Waikato chief executive Sarah Nathan noted Te Awamutu Musuem has “punched above its weight for many years” in sharing important cultural and heritage stories but many had largely gone untold.
“Creative Waikato passionately supports the concept of Te Ara Wai and applauds the approach,” she said.
Waipā mayor Jim Mylchreest welcomed the wave of national support and said Council would continue to be strongly guided by, and work closely with, Iwi to capture stories and develop Te Ara Wai and Waipā Journeys together. Te Awamutu’s close proximity to battle sites made it an ideal location, he said.
“Te Ara Wai will tell the story of New Zealand’s journey to nationhood and already the feedback indicates that this is a nationally important initiative – far beyond just Waipā. The work we are doing here will create spaces for discovery and for learning parts of New Zealand history which until now, have remained largely untold.”