A SACRED stone has taken pride of place in an adventure tourism business’ centre in Glenorchy.
The large mauri pounamu, or greenstone, was blessed in a special ceremony on Saturday by Ngai Tahu ‘kaumatua’ – respected tribal elders.
It marked the completion Dart River Jet Safaris’ redevelopment of its visitor centre on Mull Street in the town.
The stone is named ‘Manatu’ by the elders – meaning ‘a precious reminder from the throat of the reclining giant, Te Koroka’.
It has spent the past two years on display in Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa Tongarewa – in Wellington.
Michael Skerrett, Waihopai Runanga Upoko, says the placement adds a cultural dimension to the tourism experience.
Skerrett says: “Te Awa Whakatipu (Dart River) is an area of significant cultural importance to Ngai Tahu, especially to Southern Runanga.
“These people have a very strong relationship with this area.”
The ‘mauri’ pounamu stone embodies a living, spiritual energy that is shared with all those who touch it and is a powerful symbol of the tribe’s relationship to the land.
Manatu was sourced during a 2009 expedition to the famed Te Koroka – a sacred source of pounamu along the Dart River in the Mt Aspiring National Park at the base of the Southern Alps.
Rediscovered in 1970, the site had remained untouched for 200 years. The area is protected by rahui (customary protection) and is designated as a National Special Area with entry by permit only.
When viewed from the right vantage point, Koroka resembles a reclining giant, the pounamu exiting the mountain from the mouth of the giant.
Dart River Jet Safaris is run by Ngaio Tahu Tourism, one of New Zealand’s premier tourism operators.
John Thorbun, chief executive, says: “One of the aims of the redevelopment was to showcase Ngai Tahu traditions and share local stories with visitors to the pristine Dart River Valley.
“We’ve worked closely with Ngai Tahu kaumatua and artists to be able to achieve this.”
Interpretative panels and imagery tell the story of Te Koroka as a source of precious pounamu, Ngai Tahu traditional links with the area and the overall beauty of the landscape, which is part of Te Wahi Pounamu, a UNESCO World Heritage Area.
Visitors are invited to touch the kohatu pounamu, which has been gifted by the Southern Runaka Kaitiaki Pounamu Group.