Heritage New Zealand status bestowed on Ngai Tahu rock art site

Ngai Tahu Rock Art Trust has a 10-year plan for ecological restoration of the Opihi cave drawings site.
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/FAIRFAX NZ

Ngai Tahu Rock Art Trust has a 10-year plan for ecological restoration of the Opihi cave drawings site.

A Ngai Tahu Rock Art Trust site in South Canterbury has received wahi tupuna (sacred ancestors) registration under Heritage New Zealand recognising it as a nationally significant Maori ancestral site.

The trust that oversees the site on 10 hectares of private farmland near Opihi has also recently taken delivery of a $17,500 plan for ecological restoration.

Trust curator Amanda Symon said the Heritage New Zealand (HNZ) registration was recognition of the significance of the property, which contains 25 rock art sites. The most well-known is the Opihi Taniwha site.

Te Ana rock art guide Wetere Home at the Opihi cave drawings ahead of the restoration project.
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/FAIRFAX NZ

Te Ana rock art guide Wetere Home at the Opihi cave drawings ahead of the restoration project.

"It is more than just rock art; it is the connection of the ancestors to the landscape which is well illustrated by the rock art," she said.

She explained the site was significant to Ngai Tahu, particularly Te Runanga o Arowhenua.

The restoration plan was completed by Landcare Research research associate Peter Heenan who surveyed the property to determine a program of replanting native species and ongoing management of the site.

An example of rock art that can be seen at Opihi.
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/FAIRFAX NZ

An example of rock art that can be seen at Opihi.

Pest plants such as gorse, ash trees and blackberry will be removed as well as animals like rabbits, feral cats and wallaby. 

The restoration is likely to draw on the nationally significant Rene Orchiston collection of harakeke flax plants used for traditional weaving for planting in different ecological areas on the property, Symon said.

About 47,000 native plants will be used in the restoration altogether.

Te Ana rock art guide Wetere Home at the Opihi cave drawings ahead of the restoration project.
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/FAIRFAX NZ

Te Ana rock art guide Wetere Home at the Opihi cave drawings ahead of the restoration project.

"It is a 10-year plan," Symon said.

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She was uncertain how much the actual restoration would cost but said it would potentially be $500,000.

The trust would be applying for funding from various sources and is hoping work will start in September or October.

Ngai Tahu Rock Art trust curator Amanda Symon.
Mytchall Bransgrove

Ngai Tahu Rock Art trust curator Amanda Symon.

"It is a biggie but there are very few places in the country that have the depth and variety of cultural and natural values that this place does," Symon said.

While tours to the site are popular, Symon said the wider aspiration for the property was for people to learn about the unique cultural and ecological heritage and understand the Maori story of the district.

 - Stuff

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