Big Pic: BTG190721PUK2 Caption: Carvers Carl Rongonui and Tamai Nicholson (absent Tipene Kawana), creating large, intricate work on takarangi design.
Pic: BTG190721PUK3 Caption: Tararua District Council building inspectors were on site to make an inspection, seen standing on the wharenui flooring.
Pic: BTG190721PUK4 Caption: Screwing in a steel pile to anchor the building.
Pic: BTG190721PUK5 Caption: Rere Te Marama, the building for carving at Pūkaha.
By Steve Carle
An educational centre with a wharenui will complete stage one of its build at the end of this month at Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre, Mount Bruce.
Two milestones have been achieved for the build of Pūkaha Te Wānanga Taiao as being the first time they have been done in the Tararua. First is screw piling - 200 wooden piles have been screwed into the ground instead of being rammed - which was not an option considering the native birds near the site.
Most of the piles go down five metres but soft ground underneath the 100-person dining area (which will be able to cater for hui and weddings) means steel piles will be screwed down to 11 metres. "The dining area will feel like you're sitting out in the bush," said Pukaha general manager, Emily Court.
Second, cassette flooring pre-constructed off-site in Masterton is being used for the first time in Tararua to complete stage one of the build.
The complex is expected to cost $4.6 million with contractors aiming for a completion date by October 2022. Tararua District Council building inspectors were on site last Tuesday. "It's going to be a great asset, there's nothing like this anywhere else in New Zealand," said Bob Dunn, TDC building inspector.
Key to the facility is an accommodation section for school groups and the like. "The 40-bed accommodation centre at Pūkaha highlights the huge potential for a future in eco-tourism, along with great opportunities to showcase the centre," said Tararua District mayor, Tracey Collis.
"Pūkaha tells our story, with its 942 hectares, part of the original 70-mile bush. Known as Te Tapere nui o Whatonga, this great forest covered the entire Tararua District and there are many cultural stories to be told, as well as those of the early pioneers who carved our towns out of the bush.
"Youth from throughout New Zealand will soon be able to learn about the forest, forest restoration, captive breeding and carving," she said. "It was great to see our youth participating in the level 3 introduction to conservation being offered by UCOL at Pūkaha and what a spectacular environment in which to learn.
"We continue to see visitors from throughout New Zealand appreciate and experience our natural environment, allowing us an opportunity to expose visitors to more of Tararua, encouraging them to venture a little further and discover what we have to offer. These opportunities will only increase as Pūkaha develops and we will be ready with a new offering when international visitors return.
"Pūkaha is a very unique and special place, returned to Rāngitane as part of their Treaty settlement and then gifted back to the people of New Zealand this year for us all to treasure," she said.
"This will be one of the few places in New Zealand where you can stay overnight on a reserve where there are native birds," said Lester Wolfreys, project manager.
"There will be guided tours in the bush at night and a nocturnal board walk to see kiwi at night in an outdoor enclosure opening at the end of this month," he said.
Carvings for the wharenui are being done on-site at Pūkaha by a team of three carvers. At the front of the wharenui the carvings will depict the ancestry of Rāngitane.
Two large pieces of totara came from Rangitāne living in Taupō which was sent to the marae at Te Ore Ore and then was passed onto Pūkaha.
"This is an unique marae set close to native bush, it brings a wholesome conservation and nature experience," said carver Tamai Nicholson.
There is a lot of interest in the carving going on and names are being taken down for potential carvers to learn in the future.