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New Whare Whakairo Opens At Pūkaha

Mount Bruce, Masterton: Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre’s whare whakairo (carving workshop) ‘Rere Te Maramara’ is now open to the public. It is one of the first publicly visible developments of Pūkaha’s $4.5 million Environment and Ecology Education programme that includes the build of a learning centre, wharenui, accommodation and nocturnal boardwalk.

The whare whakairo was blessed by Maori kaumātua (elders), dignitaries, whānau and Pūkaha staff in a private ‘light of dawn’ ceremony late last year that commemorated the new building and the significance for local Maori. Three local carvers; Tipene Kawana, Tamai Nicholson and Carl Rongonui; representing local iwi Rangitāne, have been employed full-time to produce traditional carvings for the wharenui as well as carvings that represent important gods and ancestors throughout the reserve.

Final touches to the whare whakairo were completed in January and Pūkaha now extends a warm welcome to the community to come and see the new studio and observe whakairo (carvers) at work. The whare will be open to the public throughout Waitangi Weekend 6th – 8th February from 9am – 5pm across Saturday, Sunday and Monday. At all other times it will be open for public view six days a week, 9am – 5pm from Monday - Saturday.

The development has significance for Rangitāne o Wairarapa and Rangitāne o Tamaki Nui a Rua who jointly settled their treaty claim in 2016 including the return of the 942ha Pūkaha reserve. The carving facility, carvings and the wharenui that they will adorn are an important and special way for mana whenua to be present and actively involved in the ongoing development and future of the reserve. Rangitāne are planning to hold a ceremony to gift the Pūkaha reserve to the people of Aotearoa in May this year.

Visitors to Pūkaha will soon see the benefits of the whare whakairo on their visits as carvings that honour te taiao and te ao Maori begin to appear amongst the forest paths.

Lead Carver, Tipene Kawana said “the taonga created from the whare whakairo will teach guests about the history and whakapapa of our lost crafts that we are starting to revive. They’ll tell the stories of our atua (gods) and how they relate to the ngāhere (forest) and all the creatures that live here”. Kawana said carvings would enrich the wildlife centre’s cultural storytelling. “Pou (posts) will be placed in the ngāhere that are adorned with symbols and creations each relating to different aspects and origins of the ngāhere. They will tell stories about Pūkaha and our iwi that kaiarahi (tour guides) will be able to interpret so visitors can gain insights into our culture and people”.

The opening has been welcomed by the centre’s General Manager, Emily Court who said the development was important for the wildlife centre and long overdue. “The carving team is already making such a difference to the Pūkaha experience – for staff, volunteers and visitors alike. We are learning so much and gaining more of an understanding of how significant this place is to local Maori. We are all on quite a journey of discovery. I really encourage locals to come and experience it for themselves”.

About Pūkaha: Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre is a wildlife reserve and captive breeding facility managed by the Pūkaha Mount Bruce board in partnership with Rangitāne o Wairarapa and the Department of Conservation. Through captive breeding, they have successfully reintroduced North Island Kākā, North Island Brown Kiwi and North Island Kōkako into their unfenced forest reserve (formerly part of the original 70 Mile Bush). Pūkaha aims to educate and inspire the general public about conservation and New Zealand wildlife through their Visitor Centre, daily talks and educational programmes. Pūkaha also works with whio (blue duck), pāteke (brown teal), and kākāriki.

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