Aerial view of the Punakaiki Coast, looking towards the Pancake Rocks
Image: Neil Silverwood | ©

Introduction

This redevelopment project seeks to uphold the natural and cultural significance and character of the spectacular Punakaiki area.

Highlights

The project’s anchor piece is a sustainable, new Experience Centre, comprising a largely timber structure with a green/living roof. The experience centre will be run in partnership with Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae, with DOC continuing to provide its freely available visitor information service from the facility. The centre will celebrate and tell the stories of the area’s people, striking geology, unique wildlife and cultural heritage.

The redevelopment will also address connectivity and pedestrian safety issues at Dolomite Point.

About Dolomite Point

Dolomite Point is the extraordinary limestone promontory at Punakaiki, on the West Coast of the South Island, home to pancake-shaped rock formations, blowholes and surge pools.

It is surrounded by regenerating coastal forest with an abundance of the iconic nīkau palm to the east and Punakaiki Marine Reserve to the west. Numerous threatened bird species are known to be present in the area and it is in an overhead flight corridor for Westland petrel (tāiko).

Coastal and inland trails on the West Coast/Te Tai Poutini were well known to Māori. At Punakaiki, the main highway between the existing DOC Visitor Centre and Pancake Rocks follows the alignment of the old coastal trail.

The old trail along the Punakaiki coastline was used by Māori to carry carved pounamu and raw stone for trading, as well as to access matā, or diamond-hard flints needed to drill holes in pounamu, north of Punakaiki at Pahautane.

Project background

Punakaiki is an iconic visitor destination and an important visitor gateway to Paparoa National Park.

In 2008, 213,000 people visited the Pancake Rocks walkway at Dolomite Point. This increased to 511,000 in 2018, placing significant pressures on the dated visitor and traffic-related infrastructure at the site.

The Dolomite Point Redevelopment Project (DPRP) will upgrade facilities in the area to improve the experience for visitors while protecting the sensitive natural landscape.

The project will improve infrastructure including toilets, parking, visitor centre facilities and interpretation information, while also addressing unsafe pedestrian and highway interaction.

DOC is leading the project on behalf of key partners including Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Other key stakeholders include the Punakaiki community, Waka Kotahi, Buller District Council, and Development West Coast.

A concept plan for the redevelopment of Dolomite Point was finalised in October 2018 and it is being funded with $25.6 million from the Provincial Growth Fund and $2.15 million from DOC.

Partnership

The DPRP is being approached as a true partnership between the Crown and iwi.

Iwi (Ngāti Waewae) will own and manage the new Dolomite Point Experience Centre and Exhibition Facility and, in doing so, will re-establish a cultural footprint and mana whenua at the site.

The aim is for Ngāti Waewae to be able to host manuhiri (visitors) and connect them with the natural and cultural significance of the area.

DOC will co-habit the new experience centre with Ngāti Waewae from which we will continue to provide our Paparoa National Park visitor information service.

The approach ensures that visitors enjoy a complete and holistic experience and can properly connect with and understand Māori culture and heritage at the site, an aspect that is currently missing.

Consultation process

Extensive stakeholder engagement has occurred over the last two years to inform the project design. Community meetings have been held during all design steps and formal feedback collated and factored into design evolution.

Ngāti Waewae have been engaged via a similar process all the way through the project on a collaborative basis. 

Opportunities for input are concluding with the design finalisation. Ongoing consultation will occur throughout the construction phase, however the purpose of this consultation moves to information-sharing compared with previous efforts that sought views to shape project design.

Planned work

The work of the project has begun. It includes developments to improve the accessibility and facilities of the area to provide an integrated, sensitive, sustainable and world-class redevelopment for this important site. The redevelopment includes:

  • Experience centre and exhibition facility
    • A sustainable building, comprising a largely timber structure with green/living roof that will replace the existing dated visitor centre. It will be co-habited by DOC and Ngāti Waewae.
    • A multi-media visitor exhibition that will help connect visitors to the cultural significance of the area.
  • Traffic and pedestrian infrastructure upgrades
    • Pedestrian crossing of SH6.
    • Pedestrian promenade.
    • Pedestrian walkways and cycle paths.
    • Traffic management and calming measures.
    • Improved carparking facilities.
  • Toilet facility upgrades
  • Short nature walk to a nearby viewing point
  • Landscaping

Timing

While initial work has already begun, the main construction will happen throughout 2022 and is forecast for completion in 2023.


Architectural image showing the planned Dolomite Point Experience Centre. Image: DOC

Media releases

Punakaiki project takes next step 2 August 2021

Experience centre design takes shape 14 July 2020

Designer engaged for Dolomite Point Redevelopment Project – Punakaiki 28 February 2020

Proposals sought for final design of Dolomite Point Redevelopment Project 9 October 2019

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