Two of New Zealand's most famous pottery kilns were successfully moved last year, piece by piece, after they were in the way of construction for the Peka Peka to Ōtaki Expressway.
Now, plans to create an art, cultural and historical space around them are being finalised by the Mirek Smišek Arts Trust.
After submissions at a designation hearing back in 2013-14 came from both members of the public and Heritage New Zealand to preserve the kilns, the panel decided to make the preservation of the kilns one of the PP2Ō project's consent conditions.
Moved just 20 metres to the east of their original location, the kilns are believed to be the only remaining beehive kilns in New Zealand.
Now, the Mirek Smišek Arts Trust, formed in 2019 in response to the PP2Ō proposal to secure and preserve the site of the historic kilns, are undertaking stage one of their plans to develop a multicultural arts centre as a resource for the local community, to create a unique visitor attraction located in Te Horo.
"We think we're at a particularly busy, exciting and positive stage now," trust chairman Tony Hartevelt said.
"Something valuable is in the process of being created, building on an opportunity that has come about through the construction of the expressway."
Once the site is available, expected in early 2023, the trust will launch the kilns on-site with a resident potter and a gallery area for visitors to explore the history and rich cultural heritage the area has.
"Our intension is to have a resident a potter, someone who has national status, who will live in the old railway station building for six months or so."
The trust has started the process by seeking expressions of interest from high-profile potters and appointing a panel that will look at the applications and decide once there is a clearer date as to when the site is available.
"The intention is to have the resident potter on site for up to six months at a time, someone who can bring the site to life."
Offered residence in the former Te Horo Railway Station building which Waka Kotahi will be renovating up to tenancy standard, the potter will also have use of the facilities in the Red Cottage, which sits alongside the railway station building and was used by Smišek to display his work.
"We will be setting this up as a workshop and small gallery, while also placing a series of storyboards with the history of the kilns, Smišek and ceramics in New Zealand to create a place that will be interesting to visit."
Funding has also been given from the Kāpiti Coast District Council to restore the bush area into a native bush walk with information panels on the trees and plants in the area.
"We've been thrilled with the support we've already been getting.
"Waka Kotahi has put a significant amount of public money into moving these kilns, so this has given us a head start and we've had a grant from the Czech Government in recognition of Mirek's origins."
While the kilns will not work again, Tony said they are visible evidence of what was done 50 years ago.
The second stage of the trust's plan is to develop the site further, building a hub to celebrate and promote ceramic arts and the arts of tangata whenua.
This is part of the long term plan which will only happen once site ownership is secured, likely in 2025.
"The kilns are impressive and iconic but they are inanimate objects, so part of the plan is to have the studio and gallery where people can come, see the potter at work, do master classes and visualise what it would have been like when Mirek was there.
"We see history and culture that is based on a timeless piece of land that has a history of its own and our vision is to create something that the entire community can be proud of.
"We are working to create something iconic for the whole of the Kāpiti Coast to enjoy and benefit from."
About Mirek Smišek
Smišek arrived in New Zealand in 1951 as a refugee from Czechoslovakia.
He first settled in Nelson, before moving to the Te Horo property east of State Highway 1.
He was New Zealand's first fulltime studio potter, and in 1990 was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to pottery.
He made a large number of pots for The Lord of the Rings in 2000, and in 2011 received the Gratis Agit award from the Czech Government for his contribution to the good name of the Czech Republic.
He died in May 2013.
For more information visit thekilnsattehoro.co.nz