'Greymouth has never seen anything like this'

Te Runanga of Makaawhio and Te Runanga of Ngati Waewae chairmen Paul Madgwick and Francois...
Te Runanga of Makaawhio and Te Runanga of Ngati Waewae chairmen Paul Madgwick and Francois Tumahai outside the Pounamu Pathway Māwhera Pa this morning, ahead of the soft opening tomorrow, and public opening on Monday. Photo: Greymouth Star
The doors to the Pounamu Pathway Māwhera Pa visitor attraction open to the public on Monday, ending a year of construction and heralding the start of a new tourism era in Greymouth.

Using state of the art technology from Weta Workshop, it tells the stories of Poutini Ngai Tahu — right next to the old Māwhera Pa that existed long before the town of Greymouth.

The project had its genesis in January 2019, and work started last December on the former Revingtons Hotel site.

Reaction to the exterior artwork has been positive, and the team behind it cannot wait to show the public the cutting edge storytelling inside the main exhibition space.

Ten staff are being trained this week, with the first 100 invited guests and dignitaries to be shown through tomorrow evening.

On Friday, it is the turn of tourism operators, and the doors open to the public on Monday morning.

The final asphalting was going down this morning, and the fencing is about to come down.

Te Runanga of Ngati Waewae chairman Francois Tumahai said there was lighting to go up, some tidying to do, and a lift to come for the mezzanine. The building contains a conference room upstairs.

Te Runanga of Makaawhio chairman Paul Madgwick said people were excited to see the exterior artwork but that was only a teaser for what was inside the experience centre, which would "blow the socks off" the public.

"Greymouth has never seen anything like this," he said.

"We are excited for our people, excited for the West Coast, and it's exciting for Greymouth and future generations.

"This is rewriting the history of the West Coast."

For the first time in West Coast museum and tourism history, Poutini Ngai Tahu will be the focus, though some European history features too.

The exhibition space is an immersive audio-visual experience, where visitors will discover how Māwhera Pa became established by Poutini Ngai Tahu.

Each whare inside the centre holds a different immersive experience where visitors will learn of the legends, battles and ancestors that shaped Māwhera.

In the ancestor's whare visitors come face to face with the warrior chief Tūhuru, the Poutini Ngai Tahu ancestor who was pivotal in Māwhera Pa.

With the work almost done, next up is Westport, where the Coaltown museum is being redesigned to join the larger Pounamu Pathway trail. Haast follows, then Hokitika is the final piece of the puzzle in late 2025.

The project is a $34 million collaboration between Kanoa (formerly the Provincial Growth Fund) and Poutini Ngai Tahu.

In June 2020 the PGF put up $17.87m for the interior, matched by a $17m investment by Makaawhio and Ngati Waewae runanga, which have jointly funded the construction of the Greymouth centre.