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Dawn Blessing Marks The Opening Of Pāpāmoa Hills Upgrade Project

There’s a new look and experience to be had at Pāpāmoa Hills Cultural Heritage Regional Park this summer.

A blessing by mana whenua on Saturday officially opened new tracks, carpark, seating area, interpretive panels and toilets, ensuring the popular location is set for the summer season.

Despite the early start, the mood was one of anticipation as the procession moved around the entrance on Poplar Lane before the sun crept over the horizon.

The occasion, which attracted 170 people, was organised by Te Uepu, the shared decision-making entity for the park. Te Uepu is made up of representatives from park owners Toi Moana Bay of Plenty Regional Council, and from Waitaha, Ngā Pōtiki, Ngāti Pūkenga and Ngāti Hē.

The Regional Council Land Management Officer responsible for the park, Hayden Schick, says Regional Council and iwi representatives started working together in 2017 to develop a concept for the new carpark and visitor gateway.

“With more than 100,000 visitors per year, the need for upgrades became apparent when the old carpark was regularly at capacity,” he says, “while the story of the rich heritage of the area was not being told.”

The upgrades include a new carpark that provides more than 80 additional spaces, a visually stunning tomokanga (entryway), a 3D map of the park, new seating area, toilet block and interpretive panels, while wayfinding signs are dotted across the 182ha park.

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“The project has been years in the making and we’re proud of what we’ve achieved alongside our mana whenua partners. Their input has been invaluable to understanding the significance of the whenua here. Sharing the story of the landscape was at the heart of the project, with the benefits of increased carparking, safety, and facilities an additional bonus,” says Mr Schick.

There are 1,630 individual archaeological features recorded in the park. These are predominantly tuku (terraces) and papatahi (platforms), pits, middens and defensive earthworks such as maioro (ditches).

“The number of archaeological features present in such a small area is very unusual for Aotearoa New Zealand and reflects why it is necessary to protect these sites and tell the story of this important cultural landscape,” he says.

Toi Moana Councillor Kat Macmillian says in a world where open spaces increasingly come under pressure from encroaching development, the conservation of the park for its heritage, recreational and ecological values is an important part of a vibrant region.

“The park is a taonga that deserves to be safeguarded while being shared with the public,” Councillor Macmillian says.

“This is the basis of Te Uepu’s partnership, to work together to uphold the social, cultural and environmental protection of the whenua so that it can continue to be enjoyed now and for future generations.”

Track upgrades include the construction of a wheelchair-friendly short loop track and a 1,500m walkway connecting the new carpark and existing walkway. The latter meanders alongside the Maraeroa pā site offering more spectacular views. An 80m staircase has also been built as an option for a more direct route within the new track.

The old carpark will continue to remain open for use. Park opening hours are 4.30am - 9pm daily in summer. Find more information on the park at www.boprc.govt.nz/papamoa-hills

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