Heritage update

Heritage and Ngāi Tahu Partnership Workstream Lead John Twidle, talks about the importance of his workstream and what’s happening in this space currently.

People have been visiting the fiords and lakes of the southern south for hundreds of years – it’s important to recognise that and to preserve that history.

While the stunning landscape is the drawcard for many, it’s the stories of place, told through the voices of the explorers, sealers, conservationists, farmers, road builders, transients and settlers, be they Māori, European, Asian or from wherever they came … that is what makes this place unique and that is what sets it apart from everywhere else in the world.

We need to see the place through the eyes of each of those people and we need to respect each of their perspectives of how they view the place, how this place is special to them, and how they want to protect it and enjoy it into the future.

The grave of Milford Sound residents Donald and Elizabeth Sutherland

MOP has a focus along the Milford Highway and at Milford Sound Piopiotahi itself. We have been working with Origin Consultants to understand and record this place from an ‘all people’s’, heritage perspective. By delving back into the past, doing the research and field work, talking to the people, and capturing all that information, we will soon have a record that will back-fill many of the current gaps in our knowledge of this area.

The place is also of great cultural significance to Ngāi Tahu and, for them too, it has a rich history – one of exploration, food gathering, medicinal and cultural harvesting and other traditional practices. Across those hundreds of years, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe and Ngāi Tahu have been routinely travelling through these places. Piopiotahi is their ‘cradle of mythology’ and, working alongside Kauati Heritage Consultants, MOP is looking at that aspect in order to guide the project with that perspective in mind.

This Heritage Assessment work started in mid-2023. Some of the work has already happened and reports are being written – other work is on-going. We expect to have all the reports completed in early 2024 when they will not only provide key information for our work but also serve as a valuable resource for anyone who needs them to help inform their planning and future decision-making.

Knowing our place well helps us understand our context better and informs our thinking when it comes to doing the right things at the right places. It also ensures that our unique past is recorded properly and will never be lost.

Recent Kantar Research delivered a strong message from both International and New Zealand visitors alike. They want to see New Zealand’s indigenous culture on display at the natural and iconic places they visit, and they want to hear the stories that are unique to our country.

As tourism operators know well, understanding our past connects us to the depth of our culture and our history and allows us to share it with the world through symbolism, storytelling, and behaviours – ultimately enriching the place and the visitor experience.