Council gives loan for Pūkaha Centre expansion

The Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre is planning a $5.2 million expansion and the Tararua District Council is supporting them.

Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis signed a $1 million loan agreement at a contract signing ceremony Saturday, 30 October 2021. In line with Pūkaha’s vision to be recognized as Aotearoa New Zealand’s number one mainland indigenous wildlife sanctuary, they will be further developing their Environment and Ecology Centre, now known as Te Waananga Taiao. Along with Council’s loan, about half of the total cost of the programme is being met by Government’s Provincial Growth Fund. Further contributions are expected from corporate sponsorship, grants, community fundraising and borrowing.

The new Te Waananga Taiao Education and Accommodation building will span 916m2, including accommodation facilities for 40 people and includes a whare nui that will seat 150 and sleep 50, catering facilities and whare kai seating 100. It aims to be completed and ready for use by August 2022. By building overnight facilities the reach to greater number of schools increases significantly. In addition, interactive learning programmes for students at Pūkaha and in the classroom will be developed, along with support materials for teachers. Te Waananga Taiao will help to diversify income streams, and reduce reliance on international visitors while also increasing educational and recreational experiences for the community, schools, community groups, iwi, motorhome users and private groups. In addition, the project is expected to create up to 10 additional full-time jobs within the first five years of operating.

Tararua District Mayor Tracey explains; “Besides the significant cultural importance, an important driver of the Te Waananga Taiao project is the need to grow and improve the commercial side of Pūkaha. Using the centre to provide accommodation as well as environment and educational tourism will increase visitors to Pūkaha as they will travel through and spend time and money in the Tararua District. This will benefit businesses and the community and help to strengthen the economic and social diversity of the region.”

General Manager of Pūkaha, Emily Court explains about the cultural significance of the new development; “Pūkaha was gifted on 1 May 2021 to The People of Aotearoa by Rangitāne o Tamaki Nui a Rua and Rangitāne o Wairarapa, who both have been instrumental in the design of the wharenui. It will be adorned with carvings currently being completed by a team of Rangitāne carvers onsite and will be a central place where the two runanga can come together. Te Waananga Taiao is a place to formally recognise and acknowledge Rangitāne as Mana Whenua and a place where opportunities will develop and grow for iwi over the years ahead.”

“We are very grateful for the consistent support and encouragement of the Tararua District Council. This loan will enable us to further increase our economic, social and cultural contribution to the Tararua District.”  

According to Mayor Tracey: “The development of Te Waananga Taiao aligns with many of Council’s goals; it supports our cultural histories, it promotes our district identity, it boosts our district as a visitor destination, it supports business growth and diversity, and educates our children about the importance of climate change, nature and our beautiful flora and fauna.”