Visitors and locals of Waipā will now be able to learn of our district's rich history and culture through a new interactive website and a self-guided mobile tour.

Te Ara Wai Journeys, a project that spanned three years, was launched on Friday and those who were involved with its production attended a celebration at the Sir Don Rowlands Centre at Lake Karapiro.

Waipā Mayor Jim Mylchreest told guests that the stories on the website are very powerful.

They have a focus on how the region was and continues to be shaped by the New Zealand Land War Battles and the self guided tour includes stops at battle sites, significant landscapes and early settlement sites across the district.

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"It's fair to say the hurt and anger of our past conflicts and injustices are something many continue to live with today."

"We have been ignorant of this for so many years, but now we acknowledge that it has never been more important for Kiwis to learn about our history."

"Te Ara Wai Journeys gives a voice to the stories never widely told before," said Mylchreest.

The website also functions as mobile self-guided tour that would take users across the districts significant sites and areas to learn of its history through storytelling. Photo / Robyn Taylor.
The website also functions as mobile self-guided tour that would take users across the districts significant sites and areas to learn of its history through storytelling. Photo / Robyn Taylor.

The Minister of Māori Development and MP for Hauraki-Waikato, Nanaia Mahuta, also attended the launch to show her support for a project she said excited her.

"If we can pique the curiosity of people with these stories to come into this area before moving through then we have a great opportunity here," said Mahuta.

The project consisting of a website, a mobile tour and signage throughout the region was designed by Chris Hay and his team at Locales, with the help of Te Awamutu Museum, and it is the sister product to the Te Ara Wai Discovery Centre, a new museum opening in Te Awamutu by 2022.

There are 169 stories on the website that can be accessed in English or Te Reo. The designers have used a range of elements including audio and video to tell the stories that have been told by locals.

The stories have been divided up across six zones that are Rangiowhia-O-Rakau, Kakepuku, Karāpiro, Pirongia, Cambridge and Ngā Roto.

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An example of the new signage along one of the six trails and the map of the Pirongia trail route. Photo / Caitlan Johnston
An example of the new signage along one of the six trails and the map of the Pirongia trail route. Photo / Caitlan Johnston

In each zone, a trail with between four and six stops has been created with signage that display a map and brief information about the places as well as a QR code that can be scanned to access more stories about that location through the website.

"It's like taking a museum out into the landscape and that's why this product is unique, once you get to the signs this is where the stories come alive. Many of the stories have a range of conflicting and complex views just on the one place," said Chris.

Te Awamutu Museum exhibitions coordinator Henriata Nicholas spoke about how museums and galleries nationwide are being pulled towards a strong partnership and biculturalism model to be more reflective of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand history curriculum, Wai262, the wellbeing budget and the living standards framework.

New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa, is taking the lead with the changes but Henriata says Waipā seems to also be ahead of the game.

"We are the first to respond to that change with Te Ara Wai Journeys by working collaboratively in archiving our historic stories and the development of Te Ara Wai (Discovery Centre)," said Nicholas.

Now that the website has launched the Te Awamutu Museums team are going to be spending the next three months evaluating it.

"We're not sure how people will engage or react to Te Ara Wai Journeys, for some it's going to be an emotional rollercoaster. Our small museum team will do its best to evaluate the product and know there are only opportunities that will come from this," said Nicholas.

To find out more about Te Ara Wai Journeys, read the stories or to do the mobile self-guided tour visit tearawai.nz