April means Wānanga for Te Ana Māori Rock Art Centre

Timaru is probably not the first place that comes into most people’s heads when they think of ‘Māori tourism’.

But Te Ana Māori Rock Art Centre, a museum and tour operator based just across the street from the Timaru Railway Station in the historic Landing Services Building, is doing its part to change that. Te Ana boasts the most significant collection of ancient Māori rock art in New Zealand at its George St museum, and also offers guided tours to many of the Canterbury region’s most stunning examples of Māori rock drawings and cave art.

Opened in December 2010, Te Ana is owned and operated by the Ngāi Tahu Māori Rock Art Trust, an iwi-owned not-for-profit organisation that is dedicated to the protection and management of the 700+ Māori rock art sites located within the tribal boundaries of Ngāi Tahu.

Community Engagement Officer Rachel Solomon-Gould says that the big theme for April at Te Ana is ‘Wānanga’, which means ‘to gather together, to share and learn’.

“In April our busy summer season is coming to an end, and we can take a breath and refocus, and grow our knowledge. This month we’re planning a trip south to Orokonui Ecosanctuary to build our knowledge of ecological restoration, and imagine what our property at Opihi might look like in 10 years’ time.

“On the way we’re catching up with our relations at Karitane and having a korero about the ancient Pā site there. And, to top the month off, we’re starting to plan our annual Puaka-Matariki event in July.”

Te Ana Māori Rock Art Centre has just embarked on an ecological restoration project on a 10-hectare block of land surrounding a group of 14 nationally significant Māori rock art sites at Opihi in South Canterbury.

Ms Solomon-Gould says that “Te Ana’s aim is to restore the plants and animals that attracted our tīpuna to this beautiful place centuries ago. This will help us to share Ngāi Tahu culture, past and present, with our wider community and visitors to our region.”

A group of Māori rock art sites at Opihi to which Te Ana guides visitors was registered as a Wahi Tūpuna Area by Heritage New Zealand last year.

“We were really stoked,” says Ms Solomon-Gould. “The registration reflects the significance of these amazing sites, both in terms of our national heritage, but also the wider Ngāi Tahu culture that surrounds them.  They form part of an ancient trail that our tīpuna have followed for generations. Our visitors are literally following in the footsteps of our ancestors.”

With these Environmental and Host Community Sustainability projects, and a solid 4.5-star rating on TripAdvisor from 68 reviews, Te Ana is acing TIA’s sustainability scorecard.

“All five of our staff are local Ngāi Tahu people who are passionate about the revitalisation of our culture and love sharing the taonga that is Māori rock art with our wider whanau, including visitors from around the world,” says Ms Solomon-Gould.