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Tuhoe visitor centre marks new beginning

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 22/08/2016

A new visitor centre for Te Urewera will mark a new beginning for Tuhoe, says Te Urewera Board chairman Tamati Kruger.

The Wharehou will replace the Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre, which is earmarked for demolition, having closed in 2008 after being deemed unsafe.

However, the New Zealand Institute of Architects is appealing for a reprieve for the 40-year-old building on heritage grounds.

Mr Kruger said he understood the institute's viewpoint, but he had to champion the interests of Tuhoe.

The building of a new visitor centre on the shores of Lake Waikaremoana follows the Treaty of Waitangi settlement between Tuhoe and the Crown in 2014.

Under the settlement, Urewera National Park was disestablished and administration of the land passed to the Te Urewera Board, which comprises Tuhoe and crown representatives.

"The new building is a new beginning for us and manifests new relationships, not only with the New Zealand public but with the Department of Conservation as well, because there is no longer a national park," Mr Kruger said.

"It's a whole new ball game, really."

He said that, when the Aniwaniwa centre was opened in 1976, Tuhoe were not invited to be part of the official ceremony.

"The existence of that building reminded Tuhoe people that they no longer had a place in their own homeland," he said.

But Mr Kruger also said Tuhoe and project partner DOC recognised heritage value and the plan all along had been to salvage the native timber in the old building and reuse it.

Institute of Architects president Christina van Bohemen, arguing for Aniwaniwa to be saved, said it was designed by pioneer Maori architect John Scott, whose work was increasingly recognised.

Ms van Bohemen said DOC deputy director-general Mervyn English, who made the decision on the demolition, was using the department's failure to maintain the building as justification for its destruction.

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