Major new developments at one of New Zealand's oldest tourism destinations are set to transform Te Puia/New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute after a significant investment was announced today.
According to officials, the developments will transform the organisation, enrich the visitor experience and support the teaching of Maori culture.
They include a new Wananga (tertiary education) Precinct for the national schools of wood carving, weaving, stone and bone carving, and bronze foundry, and an integrated cafe and restaurant function centre overlooking Whakarewarewa Valley and the world-famous Pohutu Geyser.
Costs are estimated at $17 to $18 million, with the new cafe and restaurant forecast to open in summer with the Wananga Precinct to open around the same time, followed by gallery spaces later in the year.
A ta moko studio is also planned for the site.
While the new developments would not immediately create new jobs it would future-proof the organisation, and allow for a better learning environment for staff and students.
The wananga project has been produced by DesignTribe Architects of Auckland, and the restaurant and function complex by renowned restaurant designers Allistar Cox Architects based in Wellington.
Te Puia chairman Harry Burkhardt said the site was one of the birthplaces of tourism in New Zealand and was internationally renowned for its role in ensuring the ongoing preservation of Maori art, craft, culture and identity. He said the Wananga Precinct had been designed to strengthen the work of the national schools and their important cultural contribution.
"Just as importantly, the wananga development ensures Te Puia's tourism operation adapts to the constantly evolving needs and expectations of visitors, offering an enriched visitor experience."
It was the largest investment for the organisation since its tourism and cultural development functions were formally joined in the 1960s under legislation, Mr Burkhardt said.
Te Puia chief executive Tim Cossar said the development would significantly contribute to the ongoing growth of the Rotorua economy, as well as the local tourism sector.
It would also reinforce Rotorua's position as a leader in contemporary Maori tourism development, he said.
"The New Zealand tourism sector has experienced significant growth in recent years and the focus for all of us is turning to the ability to attract visitors in the shoulder and winter seasons," Mr Cossar said.
"The development of the Wananga Precinct contributes to this local and national objective by offering an integral and unique cultural experience that meets the increasingly discerning demands of international visitors."
Mr Cossar said other "essential" developments were being planned, including a new kiwi husbandry facility as well as repurposing other buildings.
"These developments will also commercially future-proof the organisation, while enriching the visitor experience to meet the growing demand for a unique perspective on Maori culture."
Te Puia/New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute:
* A $17 to $18 million upgrade of the site.
* Work includes a new Wananga Precinct, cafe and restaurant.
* New gallery spaces will also be built along with a ta moko studio.
* Work to begin soon and should be complete by summer 2017.
* The development will see 4082sq m of new buildings constructed.