Pounamu Pathway Set To Revitalise The West Coast Economy

Published: Fri 8 Dec 2023 11:27 AM
Get ready for an immersive experience like no other on the West Coast, as the Pounamu Pathway opens its doors to the public in December 2023. The opening of the Pounamu Pathway – a world-class cultural experience that transcends boundaries – sets the stage for a dynamic economic boost for the West Coast.
In the heart of Te Tai o Poutini (the West Coast), a vision was sparked by Ngāti Waewae Chair, Francois Tumahai, to create a world-class cultural experience offering a window into the vibrant and resilient Poutini Ngāi Tahu culture. This vision gave rise to the Pounamu Pathway, creating a partnership between Poutini Ngāi Tahu and globally renowned Wētā Workshop.
“We’ve achieved a significant milestone with the Māwhera Pā, the first of many to come. We really are creating a world-first cultural experience here with the Pounamu Pathway. We’re putting Poutini Ngāi Tahu on a world stage, bringing opportunities to the whole region,” said Ngāti Waewae Chair, Francois Tumahai.
This milestone was achieved with the support of Kānoa – Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit which is aimed at enhancing economic development in the regions.
Beyond its cultural and historical significance, the Pounamu Pathway is set to be a cornerstone of the West Coast's economic revitalisation, beginning with the Māwhera Pā. By providing local jobs and attracting visitors from near and far, it is expected to inject vitality into the region's economy, creating sustainable opportunities for the community.
The Pounamu Pathway is also anticipated to become a source of immense pride for West Coast locals. It is poised to serve as a testament to the region's rich heritage, and an opportunity to share their stories and traditions with the world.
“The collaboration between Poutini Ngāi Tahu and Wētā Workshop has been an extraordinary journey. This partnership not only brings employment and economic opportunities to our town, it also allows us to open a door to a world of cultural significance. Our goal is to attract more visitors and encourage longer stays, therefore benefiting other local businesses and operators,” said Grey District Mayor, Tania Gibson.
The Pounamu Pathway in Māwhera, introduces visitors to life in Te Tai o Poutini (the West Coast) on the very land where the pā once stood. The building, designed by RM Designs and built by Tony Wilkins Builder, features an expansive canopy designed to gracefully mirror the form of a Māori rain cape, known as a pōkeka, symbolising protection, unity and the enduring connection between people and the land. Beneath the canopy, stand pou (columns) embellished with Ngāti Waewae and Ngāti Māhaki kowhaiwhai (pattern) panels, symbolising the unity of the two hapū (sub-tribes).
The experience focuses on the core themes of the Pounamu Pathway: Ancestors, Settlements, Battles, Legends and Trade, all represented in ‘whare’ built around a central ātea (courtyard) space.
Visitors are immersed in imagery and sound that present key elements of Māwhera's history: Ngāti Waewae tīpuna (ancestors), Ngāi Tahu's treaty settlement, fishermen navigating the hazardous bar, Chinese gold miners, signing the Arahura Deed, British whalers, kawakawa pounamu, the barber mist and finally, the giant atua creation story of Tū-te-raki-whanoa.
“We embrace the role of creators and educators, but with a commitment to thorough research and cultural consultation, ensuring that these stories are not just told but brought to life in a respectful and impactful way. Working closely with Paul Madgwick and the cultural committee made this possible," said Jason Aldous of Wētā Workshop.
Paul Madgwick, as Chair of the Cultural Committee, along with the rest of the committee, has ensured the stories shared are not only engaging, but also an authentic representation of how the Poutini Ngāi Tahu people view their own histories.
“It’s essential that Poutini Ngāi Tahu retains authority and influence over the way our cultural narrative is portrayed. This not only ensures continuity but empowers future generations,” said Paul Madgwick.
The technology doesn’t stop with the immersive experiences within each whare. Visitors can also embark on a quest for hidden treasures, unlock secrets and solve puzzles while exploring the area with the Pounamu Pathway app. When visitors travel to Māwhera they can hunt for unique tukutuku panels (woven panels) to unlock augmented reality pounamu (greenstone).
The next Pounamu Pathway Experience Centre, the Museum of Kawatiri at Westport, is set to open late January 2024 and promises to be a captivating exploration of the region's unique heritage. With a primary focus on coal, gold, and pounamu, this immersive destination will allow visitors to delve into the rich history and cultural significance of these precious resources.ENDSAbout the Pounamu Pathway
The Pounamu Pathway is a groundbreaking tourism initiative on New Zealand's West Coast, celebrating the region's cultural, historical, and natural heritage. Through immersive storytelling and world-first experiences within four interconnected experience centres — Māwhera (Greymouth), Awarua (Haast), Kawatiri (Westport) and Hokitika — it offers visitors a once-in-a-lifetime journey through the rich traditions and history of Aotearoa and the people of Poutini Ngāi Tahu.About Māwhera Pā Experience
The experience focuses on the core themes of the Pounamu Pathway: Ancestors, Settlements, Battles, Legends and Trade, all represented in ‘whare’ built around a central ātea (courtyard) space.Atea
In the Ātea, the Māwhera Pā comes to life. Colourful and animated light, rich and atmospheric soundscapes, and contemporary architecture envelop the visitor. As they move through the ātea, visitors feel the hum of daily life all around them. This free-roaming environment invites visitors to choose their own path and explore the incredible stories within.Ancestors
Guests will encounter the Poutini Ngāi Tahu ancestors, Tūhuru, Papakura, and Moroiti up close. The Ancestors Whare showcases the hyper-realistic 2.4:1 figure of Tūhuru, the Warrior Chief, serving as the primary highlight and a compelling reason to visit.Battles
Cradled by a darkened theatre, powerful storytelling and immersive 360-degree sound will supercharge visitors’ imaginations and transport them to the battlefields of Te Tai o Poutini (the West Coast). They'll learn about the sacrifices that were made for Ngāi Tahu to become the Guardians of Pounamu.Legends
Visitors are immersed in the creation legend of the giant Tū-te-raki-whanoa, a multimedia experience of animated shockwaves spraying atomic particles, hot gravel, fresh pounamu and tectonic forces. Visitors follow Tū-te-raki-whanoa's legendary adventure down Te Tai o Poutini (the West Coast), in this magical and cinematic media show, witnessing the visual story of the formation of Māwhera.Trade
In the Trade Whare, visitors learn about the expertise of the people of Māwhera Pā. Digital projections mapped onto taonga, resting inside contemporary kete (woven kits), reveal more stories about the history of Poutini Ngāi Tahu and the importance of trade. Visitors can reach deep inside these kete to bring their stories and taonga to life, in the palm of their hands. They will also discover how Chinese prospectors and Pākehā industry connected Māwhera to the global community.Settlement
Visitors enter the Settlement whare and are met with an evolving panorama, offering a glimpse of life on the pā. They will experience a day in the life of Māwhera Pā, from sunrise to sunset and back again. This one-of-a-kind experience allows visitors to see life as it was in this busy and bountiful land.New Beginning
Having explored the stories of Poutini Ngāi Tahu in the time of Tūhuru, in New Beginnings, visitors can now explore the stories of his legacy, told by the many voices of Māwhera today. Here, visitors are met with interactive pou (column) structures housing documentary interviews from the people of Māwhera today.About Poutini Ngāi Tahu
Poutini Ngāi Tahu are the people of the West Coast region of New Zealand's South Island, specifically the related hapū of Ngāti Waewae, and Ngāti Māhaki They have a deep connection to the land and its cultural heritage, which they are proud to share with the world through the Pounamu Pathway.About Wētā Workshop
Wētā Workshop brings imaginary worlds to life by delivering concept design, physical effects, collectables, immersive visitor experiences and games to the world’s entertainment and creative industries.
Established by Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger in 1987, they are best known for our screen work on The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Avatar, and Dune, their immersive visitor experiences, Gallipoli: The Scale of our War, Expo 2020 Dubai’s Mobility Pavilion and Wētā Workshop Unleashed. Based in Wellington, New Zealand, Wētā Workshop’s ground-breaking work has earned them multiple international awards. Their expertise brings cinematic magic to the Pounamu Pathway, making it a truly immersive experience.

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