Waipa District Council invests more money in its heritage sites

15 March, 2018

More money will be earmarked for Waipa's significant heritage and cultural sites, as Kiwis demand more opportunities to understand and experience what's in their own backyard.

In particular, the Waipa District Council wanted to put a bigger focus on its New Zealand Land Wars sites, so they could become visitor attractions and boost the district's economy.

All up, the council proposed to spend $860,000 a year, over the next 10 years, as outlined in its draft 10 year plan, now out for public comment. The plan said the council currently spent $500,000 a year on operating and maintaining the sites. It proposed to increase the budget by an extra $3.6 million over the next 10 years, including $2.3m on capital upgrades and $1.3m on operating costs.

The current budget was enough to reduce ecological loss and pest threats, maintain access for the public and install minimal interpretative signs. But it wasn't enough to restore key ecological environments, retain or increase the more sensitive native plants and animals.

The council was also keen to make sure it could meet the increasing demand of the heritage tourism market, as more Kiwis ask to visit sites of historical value in their district.

Some of the key sites earmarked for work over the next decade included Lake Ngāroto, a selection of New Zealand Land Wars sites such as Waiari Pā and Ōrākau.

Others included significant inter-tribal battle sites such as Mātakitaki, Alexandra Redoubt and Kihikihi Redoubt. There would also be a focus on the Cambridge Town Hall.

"These sites are priority as they offer the most opportunity from a visitor and tourism perspective," the plan said. Work on these sites would include boardwalks, signage, creating better entranceways and improving public facilities such as toilets and changing areas.

"We will also focus on providing digital journeys for visitors to enable people to really experience everything these sites have to offer."

Under the heritage banner, the council also outlined its plan to build the Waipa Discovery Centre in Te Awamutu. A total of $12.4m had been budgeted for the design and build of the centre.

The council had also set aside $4.4m in the 10 year plan for earthquake strengthening and improvements to the Cambridge Town Hall, which was built in 1909.

- Lawrence Gullery, Waikato Times

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