24 April 2019
They come from very different backgrounds.
But two people, both passionate about Te Awamutu, say the time and place is right for a combined discovery centre and museum that finally tells the story of the New Zealand Land Wars.
Te Awamutu Museum exhibitions co-ordinator Henriata Nicholas and Te Awamutu Community Board chair Gary Derbyshire met at the future site of Te Ara Wai last week. The combined discovery centre and museum – dubbed a “mini Te Papa” by Gary – will sit alongside the Te Awamutu library. It will replace the existing museum and act as the hub for self-drive tours around battle sites and other historical sites around the district.
Together with the library and events centre, Te Ara Wai will anchor the long-awaited Te Awamutu hub development, connect the town centre and give visitors another compelling reason to spend time in the district. Historical battle sites within Waipā include Hingakākā, Mātakitaki, O-Rākau and Rangiaowhia as well as sites like Lake Karāpiro, near Cambridge.
“This is not just about relocating the existing museum; it’s so much more than that,” Gary said.
“This is about talking about and learning about our shared past and what happened right here, right on our doorstep. People need to understand where New Zealand has come from. People of my generation simply weren’t taught about the Land Wars and what they meant,” he said.
“This is an opportunity to change that and let’s grab it because Te Ara Wai is going to be fantastic for Te Awamutu and the Waipā district. This is something quite special and nationally, a lot of people agree.”
Henriata and Gary say the timing is right for a discovery centre and museum with a strong focus on New Zealand history. Educators across New Zealand, including teachers in Waipā, are calling for more emphasis on the New Zealand Land Wars in school. Already schools from well outside the district travel here to visit battle sites and learn what happened.
For Henriata, Te Ara Wai will build on a strong heritage legacy entrusted to the Te Awamutu Museum which has been nationally recognised for its outstanding research offering, taonga and exhibitions.
“Te Ara Wai will be much more than a museum. It’s a purpose-built space to engage with the public, to tell the stories of our past and to be an inclusive platform that can connect the whole Waipā community,” she said.
“Museum experts and historians around New Zealand say we have an opportunity here to create something that’s unique, where we can tell our stories in our own way. So we have senior staff from places like Te Papa and key national historians and others supporting us on this journey.”
Henriata said it was incredible to be part of a team bringing the project to life. Waipa District Council has already committed $7.2 million to build the facility and more than $4.5 million has been budgeted over 10 years for new exhibitions. Other funding partners are also being sought.
“There’s a of work to be done but with community support and willingness, we can make Te Ara Wai something absolutely incredible.”