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Ngāi Tahu Tourism opens new Franz Josef visitor hub

June 27, 2016

Ngāi Tahu Tourism opens new Franz Josef visitor hub

Invited guests at Te Ao Marama

A major new visitor hub housing the Department of Conservation, Franz Josef Glacier Guides (owned by Ngai Tahu Tourism and part-owned by Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio) , Glacier Hot Pools, i-SITE Franz Josef and a café has opened in the village of Franz Josef.

Built and owned by Ngāi Tahu Tourism, the building - Te Ao Marama - was officially opened on Saturday, 25 June with a large crowd of local supporters in attendance.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Kaiwhakahaere, Tā Mark Solomon speaking at the opening, emphasised the South Westland’s enormous cultural and spiritual significance to the people of Ngāi Tahu, noting that the new building reinforces the iwi focus on kaitiakitanga.

“We place a strong emphasis on the guardianship and sustainability of the national taonga that surround us. This is a special place for Ngāi Tahu and it is fitting that Ngāi Tahu Tourism has worked closely with both Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio, who are shareholders in our Franz Josef Glacier Guides business, and with our new building tenants, the Department of Conservation,” he said.

The opening also marks another step forward in the growing relationship between Ngāi Tahu and the Department of Conservation.

“Many of us here today grew up immersed in the philosophy of kaitiakitanga. We cared – and still care - about the sustainability of resources; and I believe that while there is still work to be done, that awareness of the tangata whenua perspective in conservation is slowly growing and the partnership approach that we are forming with the department, is beginning to achieve great things within our takiwā,” Tā Mark said.

Director-General of the Department of Conservation, Lou Sanson also commented on the partnership.

“The partnership with Ngāi Tahu reflects the Department of Conservation’s strong desire to work with the iwi, as a Treaty partner, in South Westland and to have visitors experience the natural and cultural wonders of one of the most wonderful nature experiences anywhere in the world,” he said.

During the opening celebration, Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio unveiled a new plinth, which holds a striking kōhatu mauri (mauri stone) in Aotea pounamu, which was gifted and unveiled in the Glacier Hot Pools complex in 2008. It is now being moved so that it becomes a centrepiece in the new building. Named Te Āhuru Mōwai o te ngākau Māhaki (the haven of comfort), the stone connects all who touch it to the heart and spirit of the land and its people.

Located in Cron Street, in front of the Ngāi Tahu Tourism-owned Glacier Hot Pools, the new centre joins other local businesses making the move to the village’s new business area following a ruling by the Westland District Council. The council has defined an 'earthquake risk zone' in Franz Josef due to the Alpine Fault, which dissects the village (and actually runs right through the forecourt of the petrol station, and within a few metres of the former DOC i-Site). The new zoning means that no new building or renovations will be allowed within the earthquake risk zone, prompting relocation of a number of businesses in the town.

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