Saturday, April 13, 2024

Pou whenua trio stand guard

Three pou whenua unveiled at spectacular Kura Tawhiti/Castle Hill will stand as kaitiaki over the popular site and mark the area’s cultural significance to mana whenua, the Department of Conservation (DOC) said today.

The pou whenua were installed as part of an upgrade to protect the cultural values of Kura Tawhiti and celebrate the important site, in collaboration between Ngāi Tūāhuriri whānui and DOC. 

Seven information panels have been installed with narratives covering Ngāi Tūāhuriri/Ngāi Tahu history. Ngāi Tūāhuriri is the hapū which descends from the ancestor Tūāhuriri and holds rangatiratanga over Kura Tawhiti.

Ngāi Tūāhuriri spokesperson, Joseph Hullen says the pou whenua represent the rangatiratanga of the hapū and the tōpuni status of the whenua.  

“This is an opportunity for place-based storytelling, for us to tell our stories, our way, for all visitors to enjoy,” he said.

“The pou whenua depicting our tīpuna give Ngāi Tūāhuriri a visual presence on the landscape, so manuhiri (visitors) may learn our stories and the history of Kura Tawhiti.” 

Kura Tawhiti is one of 14 tōpuni sites across Te Waipounamu, which are areas legally recognised as culturally significant to Ngāi Tahu.

The new pou whenua, designs for the shelter, and information panels at Kura Tawhiti were created by master carvers Fayne Robinson (Ngāi Tahu) and Riki Manuel (Ngāti Porou). The stories shared on the information panels are from Ngāi Tahu tīpuna who were alive in the late 1800’s. Their stories were recorded in Ngāi Tahu manuscripts and by early European historians. 

DOC Eastern South Island Operations Director, Jo Macpherson says the upgrades will help visitors to understand and respect the cultural significance and heritage values of the area. They will also protect the fragile ecosystem.

“The Department of Conservation is focused on working with mana whenua to appropriately acknowledge and celebrate the cultural significance and stories of the places under our care. It’s incredibly rewarding to see the results of working with Ngāi Tūāhuriri whānui to restore their values into this site,” she said.

“What a gift for visitors to this special place who now get to connect with the cultural, spiritual and historical significance of Kura Tawhiti, which will enrich their experience at the site.”

“This is a hugely popular site and deeply special to so many of us. More than 100,000 visitors a year stop to take in the stunning limestone rock formations – a number that’s expected to increase.”

She said the ecology of the site is fragile and can be damaged by large numbers of people walking through it.

“The new track and native plantings will help to guide visitors through the site and protect the unique landscape.”

As well as the pou whenua and the new information panels, other upgrades include the construction of a new loop track, native plantings, and new shelters and picnic tables.

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