20 year vision comes to light with National Wildlife Centre's new whare wānanga

Published: 24 July, 2023

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Te Wānanga Taiao, a new 916-square-metre facility designed primarily as an education centre for the Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre, was formally blessed and opened in July.

A man wearing a suit and a purple hat speaks at a lecturn with a Māori carving on the front of it. He stands in front of a large group of people sitting on chairs on the newly built deck of the new building.

Two days of celebrations and ceremonies over the Matariki holiday in July marked the opening of Te Wānanga Taiao. Photo credit: Larissa Deana Carlson Photography

A full marae with traditional carvings completed by the Pūkaha team of kaiwhakairo is the jewel in the crown of the new building.

Led by mana whenua Rangitāne o Wairarapā and Rangitāne o Tamaki nui-ā-Rua, this new marae honours the significance of Pūkaha historically, and as an important opportunity for the future.

A $3.7 million Provincial Growth Fund grant from Kānoa, the Government’s Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit, helped Te Wānanga Taiao come to life.

“Our late kaumātua Jim Rimene had visions of a whare-wānanga where his mokopuna (grandchildren) could be taught about the forest while being in the forest, be taught to sing like the birds while sitting beside the birds and learn stories of the past while being in a place where the past is etched in the trees and the whenua (land). I am beyond proud to see his vision come to life,” says Rangitāne kaumatua, Mike Kawana.

Te Wānanga Taiao will give visiting groups a chance to stay overnight in the forest (ngahere) and experience the wonders of the great forest of Whātonga (where Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre sits) from dawn to dusk.

“On behalf of the Pūkaha Mt Bruce Board, I am thrilled to see our commitment to building a purpose-designed education and accommodation centre and investment in enhanced education programmes, well and truly come to life,” says Pūkaha Mt Bruce Board Co-Chair Claire Matthews.

At Te Wānanga Taiao, Pūkaha staff can deliver educational programmes (schools and others), professional development, conferences, team building and bespoke programmes including overnight stays.

Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre