The regional park you didn't know about

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People celebrating the official opening of the redeveloped Waitangi Regional Park beside one of the four pou yesterday morning. Photo/ Duncan Brown.

By Alice Lock

Waitangi Regional Park has been transformed from a dumping ground to a site of regional taonga.

More than 100 people attended the official opening of the park yesterday morning at sunrise where the Celestial Compass was unveiled as part of stage one.

The compass' north, south, east and west were marked by four pou carved by local artists.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council and the Te Matau a Maui Voyaging Trust joined forces to develop the park into something with historical importance.

Council chairman Rex Graham said they wanted to breathe new life into it after it became a place for rubbish dumping and poor vehicle use.

Coincidentally Te Matau a Maui Voyaging Trust chairman Phillip Smith saw the sight as one of Hawke's Bay's most historical areas and was equally disappointed by the disrespectful land use.

"We wanted to share our vision of cultural sailing experiences and traditional navigation while promoting respectable land use."

He said in the past eight centuries people had been migrating there and acknowledged that site throughout history as a place for European and Maori settlers.

"We think people need to become more connected to the land and respect their roots, as it is a place rich in culture."

Mr Graham believes the collaboration between the council and trust was an example of a truly successful partnership.

"We have worked together and created something marvellous that celebrates our cultural and settler history. We encourage people to go out there and understand their story and see the glory of it."

Official opening of stage one of the estuary enhancement at Waitangi Regional Park, Awatoto, Napier, including pou, a celestial compass, wetlands and pathways. Photo: HBT / Duncan Brown
Official opening of stage one of the estuary enhancement at Waitangi Regional Park, Awatoto, Napier, including pou, a celestial compass, wetlands and pathways. Photo: HBT / Duncan Brown

Mr Graham said not only was the compass a piece of art but was also an educational tool and information platform for years to come.

Mr Smith hoped the compass would teach the young traditional navigation so more people would use that aboard a waka.

"We have placed story boards around the park so we can educate people and let them know of the historical importance of the land and navigation."

The opening took place at the equinox and during the next year another 28 directional pou with different stories will be added to the site.

These will represent the additional points such as north-east and north-west and will be placed during winter solstice, the equinox and summer solstice.

The project also features wetlands, new pathways, story boards and a new car park.

During the winter months public planting sessions will take place adding to the park's makeover.

"I believe we have turned what was once a dumping ground in to a tremendous park for everyone to enjoy," Mr Graham said.

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