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Prime Minister to re-open spectacular Ruakuri Cave

Prime Minister to re-open spectacular Ruakuri Cave

Cave is one of Waitomo’s most complex
Ceremony to include underground tour for PM

One of New Zealand’s foremost natural wonders, Ruakuri Cave, will be officially re-opened by the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Helen Clark, on Thursday afternoon (July 28).

The opening ceremony marks the culmination of 18 months of underground construction work on walkways, bridges and a new spiral entrance way undertaken by Tourism Holdings Limited (THL).

New Zealand’s largest tourism operation, THL holds a 33 year license from the Holden family, owners of the cave, to operate guided tours of Ruakuri. Ruakuri is part of the Waitomo cave system that includes the THL operated Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Aranui Cave.

The Prime Minister will be greeted with a formal Maori welcome from the Maniapoto people. Kaumatua Tiwha Bell will speak for his people and the Hon. Koro Wetere, a former Labour MP and Government Minister, will reply on Ms Clark’s behalf.

Ruakuri was first opened to visitors in 1904 by James Holden and, right from the start, visitors declared it to be visually impressive and an experience that was almost spiritual. The attraction was then operated by the former Tourist Hotel Corporation until February 1988, when a legal and financial dispute forced its closure.

The journey from closure to re-opening has been long and challenging, and has seen THL forge a special relationship between the Holden family, the Maniapoto Maori people and the Department of Conservation.

The result is a triumph of goodwill, innovative design, civil engineering expertise and optimism.

THL’s Managing Director, Dennis Pickup, says his company has established a successful business partnership model in the Waitomo area that could readily be emulated in other regions around New Zealand.

“Ours is a close and understanding partnership with the local Maori people and DOC that has brought jobs and tourism dollars with the result that the local economy and the community are thriving. There are always great employment opportunities and further growth and development will enhance these.”

The massive Ruakuri underground construction project was overseen by THL’s Waitomo Glowworm Caves Operations Manager Robert Tahi and consultant John Ash, who was one of the original owners of The Legendary Blackwater Rafting Co., acquired by THL in 2003.

Key contractors included Thorburn Civil and Structural Engineers, Hawkins Construction, Holden Brothers Contracting and Harkers Underground Construction.

Ruakuri will be open to visitors every day of the year except Christmas Day, with tours departing at 9.00am, 11.00am, 1.00pm and 3.00pm with additional tour times available on request.

The “round trip” taken by walkers through the cave is 1.6 kilometres and the experience is a spellbinding combination of physical beauty and spiritual journey.

As earlier visitors knew, Ruakuri has it all. Meandering underground streams, vast chambers with intricate stalagmite and stalactite formations, secret passages, fossilised seashells and the distant thunder of subterranean waterfalls provide an awe-inspiring environment, made even more special by the richness of Maori mythology that imbues it.

According to Maori legend, Ruakuri was first discovered four or five centuries ago by a young Maori hunter spearing birds for food. A pack of wild dogs inhabited the entrance way, hence the name Ruakuri – rua meaning den, and kuri meaning dogs.

The cave entrance was used historically as a burial ground, and this waahi tapu (sacred) area has been protected by the construction of a new entrance way, a safe distance from the original.

For further information about Ruakuri visit www.ruakuri.co.nz or phone 0800 RUAKURI (0800 782 5874).

ENDS

Background

Tourism Holdings Limited is listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange and operates the following businesses:

Rentals – motorhomes and cars under the Maui, Britz and Backpacker brands (New Zealand and Australia), Skiwi, Maui Direct (on sells ex Rentals fleet vehicles), C I Munro (Otorohanga based, designs and builds motorhome bodies and caravans).

Attractions and Activities – Fullers Bay of Islands, Awesome Adventures NZ, Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World, Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Aranui Cave, The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co., Ruakuri, Milford Sound Red Boats.

Coaching – Johnston’s Coachlines, Great Sights , Airbus , Ski Shuttle , Kiwi Experience , Tourist Transport Fiji, Feejee Experience.

Packaging – Discover New Zealand, Horizon Holidays, Newmans Holidays, Mount Cook Line, Ski Express.

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