The NZ Transport Agency, Mana Whenua groups, Heritage New Zealand and the South Waikato District Council have started work on a project which will see safer access and improvements to the culturally significant Hatupatu rock site on State Highway 1 near Ātiamuri.
The project will include upgrading the carpark, access and drainage at the site and will see a new landscaped area surrounding the rock itself.
Hatupatu Rock or Te Kōhatu o Hatupatu is a wāhi tapu site. The rock holds great significance because it is associated with the legendary traveller Hatupatu and the ancestress Kurungaituku/ Kurangaituku. People often stop at the site because of its significance.
The Transport Agency’s Waikato and Bay of Plenty Regional Director Parekawhia McLean says the Transport Agency has worked closely with the Mana Whenua groups to preserve the rock’s cultural and historical significance.
“We are very pleased to have collectively come up with a plan that not only recognises its importance but also improves safety for all visitors to the rock site.”
South Waikato Mayor Jenny Shattock says the Council is looking forward to the completion of work at Te Kōhatu o Hatupatu.
"This site is of special significance to our Mana Whenua groups and it has been fantastic to see so many groups coming together to not only improve access and safety of the site, but honour its importance.
“Once construction is complete Council staff will work to maintain and protect the site to ensure it is there for future generations to enjoy,” Mayor Shattock says.
The Mana Whenua groups have representatives from Raukawa, Ngāti Tahu, Ngāti Whaoa, Te Arawa River Trust and Ngāti Tūwharetoa.
They came together with Transport Agency and Swap Contractors in a poignant karakia to bless the commencement of the construction work.
The landscape design will attempt to recreate the domain of Kurungaituku using native plant materials. It will include plants that provide a habitat for native birds and that have rongoā/ traditional Māori medicine or mahi toi/traditional Māori arts and crafts uses.
Heritage New Zealand will provide signs that depict the story of the site.
Construction is underway and is expected to be completed by January 2017 with planting and storyboards to be completed by the end of June 2017.