A joint project to enhance the site of the iconic Hatupatu Rock, situated alongside State Highway 1 just south of Tokoroa, has wrapped up with the planting of native trees today.
The NZ Transport Agency, Mana Whenua, Heritage New Zealand and the South Waikato District Council have worked together in an effort to beautify the area, create safer access and improve visitor knowledge with the addition of storyboards that tell of its history.
Hatupatu Rock or Te Kōwhatu o Hatupatu is a wāhi tapu site and is known as the place where the legendary traveller Hatupatu sought refuge inside the rock itself after being pursued by Kurungaituku. The significance of the site means it is a popular stop for both domestic and international travellers alike.
“This is the only registered wāhi tapu site in the South Waikato district so we are very pleased to have worked with our partners to preserve the cultural and historical significance of Hatupatu for future generations to enjoy,” says Parekawhia McLean, the Transport Agency’s Director Regional Relationships, Central North Island.
“A key issue for us was making entry and exit to the site safer.”
The Raukawa Settlement Trust chairperson Vanessa Eparaima says: “Te Kōwhatu o Hatupatu is a site of great significance to Raukawa. We have worked together on this project collaboratively with others for more than two years and are pleased that visitors can now enjoy a deeper understanding of this wāhi tapu.
“Alongside protecting the site, we fully support the Transport Agency’s push to make the site safer to access for iwi members and visitors alike.”
The project has involved upgrading the carpark, access and drainage at the site and creating a new landscaped area surrounding the rock itself. The rock has not been affected by the work.
The joint effort has seen the Transport Agency undertaking the construction work, Mana Whenua contributing native plants, landscaping materials and traditional narratives, Heritage New Zealand has provided storyboards and the South Waikato District Council will be responsible for the site’s ongoing maintenance alongside Mana Whenua.
The Mana Whenua Group has representatives from Raukawa, Ngāti Tahu-Ngāti Whaoa, Te Arawa and Ngāti Tūwharetoa.
The redesigned site recreates the domain of Kurungaituku using native plant materials that also provide a habitat for native birds. The selection of plants includes rongoā – traditional Māori medicine – and rākau toi plants that can be used for traditional Māori arts and crafts.
Most of the work was done early in summer with stakeholders gathering today to complete the final planting and unveil the storyboards.