2003 was an important year for Ruapekapeka Pā and Battlefield. The Department of Conservation (DOC) and Te Ruapekapeka Trust combined forces and undertook a major development of the site. The visitor experience was completely transformed, based upon a comprehensive Development Plan produced by expert consultants. A new car park was built, becoming the starting-point of a loop track. The track takes the visitor past the British Advanced Position, through a forested gully, and up to the pā itself. Information panels were designed to give visitors a taste of Ruapekapeka’s remarkable story.
Visitor Development Project
The entrance to the pā is marked by a beautiful and meaningful waharoa. The waharoa is the work of a team of master-carvers, overseen by Te Warihi Hetaraka. The central figure represents Te Ruki Kawiti, the chief architect of the pā and the leader of the warriors who defended it. He is flanked by Māori chiefs who stood alongside him in the defence of Ruapekapeka Pā.
Tidying and landscaping was an important element of the project. Non-native trees and other weeds were removed, and literally thousands of native seedlings were planted. Planting that number of trees is a very labour intensive task, and it never would have been achieved without the tireless efforts of volunteers from the community.
The 2003 development of Ruapekapeka Pā and Battlefield was a complex project. The challenge was to enhance the visitor experience whilst respecting the tapu nature of the site. Earthworks were very carefully planned to avoid damage to the archaeological traces of the battle. Everyone involved worked very hard to complete the project, in time for the Minister of Conservation to attend a grand opening on 6 December 2003.
View photos of the work carried out as part of the Visitor Development Project in the Photo Gallery at the end of this section.