No timeframe for Ngai Tahu cultural centre

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 12:25 11/04/2014
Te Puna Ahurea
Supplied

NO RUSH: An artist's impression of the completed Te Puna Ahurea cultural centre.

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The South Island's largest iwi will not rush a proposed cultural precinct in central Christchurch, a Maori culture expert says. 

Ngai Tahu is in charge of the Te Puna Ahurea, earmarked for iwi-owned land behind the courts on Durham St, but little information about it is known. 

On anchor project documents issued by the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU), the cultural centre and the Hagley Cricket Oval are the only two projects without indicative timeframes.

The CCDU's website describes the centre as a ''unique, vibrant visitor destination that supports central city recovery through increased cultural, retail and hospitality activity''.

It would reflect New Zealand's evolving identity, integrate with the Avon River precinct, and provide an ''inspiring and interactive facility to showcase and celebrate'' Ngai Tahu, Maori and Polynesian traditions, it says.

Ngai Tahu chief executive Arihia Bennett said the centre was ''currently a topic for conceptual discussion in the Ngai Tahu and wider community''.

''There are a number of people who have begun to envisage what such a centre might look like,'' she said.

''We have not imposed a timeline on this.''

Professor Angus Macfarlane, of the University of Canterbury's Maori Research Centre, said the university would be ''enthusiastic about any initiative that promotes Maori in a positive light''.

He had very little detail about what was being planned and expected Ngai Tahu to carry out careful planning.

''[The centre] hasn't put itself out there in lights at this point in time and whether that's intentional or not, I'm unsure," Macfarlane said.

''But this is the sort of thing you take your time with and it shouldn't be rushed.''

It was best when development ''emerged over time'', he said. 

''This will require copious consultation and it can be quite intricate on a tribal basis,'' he said. 

Ngai Tahu was known to be cautious and methodical, ''and that should be applauded'', Macfarlane said. 

The MP for Te Tai Tonga, Rino Tirikatene, said Ngai Tahu always delivered high-quality projects and this would not be an exception.

''Ngai Tahu will do this in their own time . . . and I have no doubt that it will be a show point of the city centre,'' he said.

The iwi would ensure the centre took history and natural landscape into account, Tirikatene said.

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