The visitors' entrance to Whakarewarewa The Living Māori Village is getting a major facelift as part of plans to create an "iconic building" at the southern end of town.

The Whakarewarewa Village Charitable Trust bought the neighbouring building to its Tryon St site a couple years ago and now the time is right for it to make the changes it envisioned.

Chief executive Blair Millar said some big changes were coming.

"The business has grown well and now is the time to do it.

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"It will probably be done over a couple of stages."

Over its lifetime the building next door has been used as a Korean restaurant and a backpackers, so Millar said there were plenty of hidden rooms they could use.

A concept design for the new look visitor centre at Whakarewarewa Village. Photo / Supplied
A concept design for the new look visitor centre at Whakarewarewa Village. Photo / Supplied

"There is more flexibility as to what we can do.

"There are views to put a cafe in there, merchandising and later next year, evening cultural performances out the back."

The new building gives the trust an opportunity to work outside 8.30am to 5pm, which it is currently restricted to because of the nature of the village.

The building is hidden away behind scaffolding, as construction has begun, and when the Rotorua Daily Post went to visit work was well under way.

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A wrap-around balcony is being constructed around the front of the building, a seating area is being built at the back and large new windows and self-opening doors are being installed.

"The council has been really helpful and understanding, working with us through the design stages and also on looking at how we can change the parking areas to work in," Millar said.

A concept drawing of the new face of Whakarewarewa Village which is currently under construction. Photo / Supplied
A concept drawing of the new face of Whakarewarewa Village which is currently under construction. Photo / Supplied

He said the building was designed to fit in as closely as it could to the natural environment, while also retaining the traditional shape.

"What we'd like to be able to do with it is bring the two buildings together, and retain the authenticity of both buildings."

A key feature of the new area of the building is the cafe and retail spaces.

"The cafe will be selling our standard fare, hangi pie and hangi meals," Millar said.

"You'll be able to come down here now and grab a coffee, taste the hangi pies and have genuine, good quality food without going into the village."

For the retail space, the trust is working with a retail specialist to help get the "traffic flow right".

"Manaakitanga and hospitality are very important to us," Millar said.

"It's just sprucing things up and showing a bit of our culture."

They will also be introducing interactive spaces where visitors can learn and experience Māori weaving and other art forms.