A Sense of Place

A Sense of Place



The Heritage Centre is strategically important on an international, national, regional and local level. Drawing from such a deep repository of history the Centre will help tell the stories of the land, the people, and their relationship with it over time.

The Centre will include exhibiting taonga of the local Iwi, a place for telling the stories, a learning space, a gift shop and a whare kai. Working with the local Iwi it is envisaged that the Centre will develop a range of educational programmes and visitor experiences for international and domestic visitors that will continuously evolve to reflect the seasons and festivals of the area.

The Heritage Centre will help local Iwi strengthen their sense of mana and re-engagement with their cultural foundations, so that they in turn can offer manaakitangi and kaitiakitanga to the people visiting Otuataua in a meaningful, engaging and relevant way. In this respect the project aligns directly with the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2015 and the Auckland Regional Visitor Plan: Bringing the World to Auckland. The Heritage Centre is an anchor project of the Mangere Gateway Heritage Strategy. The project will bring additional GDP to Mangere and the wider Manukau area. It will create employment opportunities and presents a platform to celebrate culture and preserve heritage and the environment. And in the process, build community pride and identity.

“Our relationship to the land and our ability to listen to its story – one infinitely larger than our own - are defining choices in who we will become”
Peter Forbes



The building form is shaped by the stories of the land as it draws from the origins of the volcanic nature of the land and of the arrival of Hape on a Kaiwhare - one of the guardians of the local Iwi Te Wai o Hua. Steeped in many layers of meaning and adopting the Maori concept of the three baskets of knowledge – te kete aronui, te kete tuatea,and te kete tuauri the building reveals itself the more one experiences it

Key to embracing the three baskets of knowledge is that as you move through the building you move from a state of darkness to one of light, ie, from positions of limited knowledge to that of things learned. The entry to the Centre is under a cantilevered canopy, Te Whakatau, where visitors are welcomed and sheltered. This opens to the Atea, a display/gathering space that connects the various activities within the Centre.

Within the Atea, the gathering space, rests the mauri touchstone. The Atea provides a background for telling the stories of the geology and botany, Maori and European, ancient and present. At the quarry entrance is the retail and ticketing area.

The Akoranga room is at the beginning of the journey of knowledge - it is dark and the surroundings become secondary to the stories being told. This is a space where one absorbs new knowledge. On gaining this knowledge the visitor is prepared for a more in-depth learning and an opportunity to participate in traditional crafts and knowledge in the Wananga/Technology space.

On receiving this, the visitor is prepared for the Whare Kaitiaki Kei Tua o Te Arai. The architecture sets up and helps ritualize this experience. The visitor becomes aware that they are entering a sacred space through the use of the materials, a change in level of light and of the ramp down which follows the tradition of local Maori keeping Taonga within caves. Water will also be present as part of the ritual as will the act of removing one’s shoes prior to entering through the lowered portal to the space beyond.

The Whare Kaitiaki Kei Tua o Te Arai will be darker and evoke cave-like associations - a silent place to honour the ancestors of the land. Subtle light illuminates the treasures. Not immediately obvious to the visitor will be an opening leading out to glazed space in contrast to the dark earthen interior. The Paparewa faces West and hovers over the valley, exposed to the elements with views to the Manukau Harbour and beyond.

The Whare kai is at the north-west corner of the building and is set to bring people together to help celebrate our diversity and at the same time, our unity. The intimate Whare kai will serve local produce and showcase local craft. This space opens to terraces to the north which are sunny and sheltered with aspects to Manukau Harbour, Auckland City and the volcanic cones of Mangere Mountain (Te Pae o Mataoho), Mount Wellington (Naungarei) and Mount Eden (Maungawhau – also known as Te Ipu o Mataoho).






The chosen site presents a number of positive attributes, from its easily accessible approach to the aspect beyond. It is sheltered from the predominant South Westerly wind and opens out to the North. It is in close proximity to archaeological sites which will play an important part to shaping the visitors experience. The geology, botany and cultural history of both Maori and Paheka occupation have an immediate relationship with this location. The site is part of an old quarry, and from an archaeological perspective is a predominantly destroyed and ‘disturbed’ site.

The Centre is located as part of the journey of the site, hidden from the visitor’s approach until turning a corner of the walking path the building is revealed within the old quarry. The built forms are of the site and not on the site. It is a low-key building with natural materials that work with the existing environment.  The building sensitively responds to the topography, climate conditions and movement of the sun. It sets up a dialogue with surrounding views and is contained by the old quarry rim, the boulder field and the Karaka and Ngaio tree.



The Heritage Centre is situated at the Otuataua Stonefields, an internationally significant heritage reserve within the Mangere Heritage Gateway Plan. Rich in history, the land was formed 20,000 years ago, and is one of the few places left in Auckland that one can witness uninterrupted the volcanic cones and flow of lava that reach down to the shores of the Manukau Harbour. Within the 100 hectare reserve lie pockets of remnant forest with numerous botanical treasures. This land and its surrounding area has been occupied and cultivated since at least the 12th century, as told in the oral history of the local iwi (Te Wai o Hua), and supported by archaeological investigations and radiocarbon data estimates. Te Wai o Hua (the descendants of Nga Oho people) have one of the oldest genealogy in Auckland including the ancestral line of Mataoho – the God of Volcanoes. Te Ihu a Mataoho (the nose of Mataoho) relates to Ihumatao (Elletts Mountain) just south of the Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve. The local Maori are descendents to Hape who came here prior to the arrival of the Tainui waka. Hape journeyed from Hawaiki on the back of a stingray and to this day, the stingray, or Kaiwhare, is the guardian of the Manukau Harbour.

The Otuataua Stonefields also tells stories of first European settlement from 1836; the Missionary arrival in the Manukau Harbour, establishment of the Ihumatao Mission in 1847, early European settlement and farming, holiday baches in 1920’s and 30’s, the 1960’s impact of Auckland Airport construction and building of the Wastewater Treatment with ongoing quarrying of the Stonefields up until the mid 1980’s until it became a Reserve in 2001 under the stewardship of Manukau City Council, Auckland Regional Council and Department of Conservation.

The establishment of the Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve was seen as being the beginning of a new era of protection. The building of the Heritage Centre, will continue towards actively helping provide a legacy and the preservation of the land and its stories.

Ko te Kaahu Pokere e kore e ngaro i roto i te hinapouri

The Black Hawk shall never perish but shall remain forever

Te Wai o Hua proverb