Waitomo marks 125 years at caves

17:00, Aug 27 2014

A grand ball, stargazing event and story telling night will be among the events on offer at Waitomo next month as the community celebrates 125 years of guiding in the glowworm caves.

Limestone, People & Time will bring nine days of music, commemorations, exhibitions, community party spots, dinners, screenings, recorded histories and guided walks.

In 1889, Tane Tinorau and Fred Mace opened the first guided tours of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves to visitors. And now, 125 years on, their enterprise has become a unique tourist attraction.

Huia Davis is a great-grandson of Tinorau, and now works as head guide at Glowworm Caves.

"Every day is a new day in this job," he said.

Since their discovery, the caves have emerged as "a jewel in the Waikato", said Waitomo mayor Brian Hanna.


"So much has changed and developed over the years, so this is a huge event for us. All the offshoot businesses that support the caving are getting together to celebrate too."

Hanna said this was the biggest community-wide event the caves had had. A pou whenua (Maori carving), Te Poupou a Tane Mahuta, was unveiled on December 28, 1987 to commemorate the centenary of the first exploration of the Waitomo Caves.

The most glamorous event will be a glowworm ball at the Waitomo Caves Hotel on September 13. Dancing, music and a three-course meal will rival the evenings of days gone by.

"That will be a bit of nostalgia," Davis said.

A special exhibition at Waitomo Caves Discovery Centre themed "Then and Now" will display a time-line of developments over the last 125 years, including the evolution of tourism at Waitomo Caves along with roading and transport challenges that faced early settlers.

At Waitomo General Store, the Passages of Time exhibition will showcase photographs traversing 100 years of settlement in Waitomo.

Along with various other exhibitions, Davis said there will be "rambles in areas of historical significance".

Visitors can gain insight into pre-European Waitomo with the cultural trail walk on September 6. On this two-hour walk local kuia, Josephine Anderson will take trampers to Ohinetemaire, a hilltop above the Waitomo Domain and speak about the unique history of Ngati Uekaha and Ngati Ruapuha. Davis belongs to the latter.

Hinurewa Te Hau from Maniapoto will lead a talk and discussion on Waitomo 25 years from now, in 2039.

Te Hau will provide an opportunity for people to come together and explore the future of Waitomo.

On September 12, families will come together in Waitomo Domain to light up the evening sky with lanterns in a stargazing event.

The exhibition runs from September 6 to September 14, hosted and funded by the Ruapuha Uekaha Hapu Trust in partnership with the Department of Conservation and Tourism Holdings Ltd.

For more information and a full programme, go to ruht.co.nz rachel.thomas@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

Waikato Times