Aniwaniwa visitor centre demolition begins

Aniwaniwa visitor centre demolition begins

Demolition has started on a heritage-listed building in Te Urewera National Park, sparking anger from artists and architects.

The Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre sits next to Lake Waikaremoana, and those fighting to save it say it's a New Zealand treasure.

It looks rundown these days, but when it was built in the 1970s, the Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre was seen as an innovative fusion of Maori design and modernism.

It's still considered one of the finest examples of 20th century New Zealand architecture.

"It's a significant taonga in New Zealand's architectural history, especially with the Department of Conservation," says president of Historic Places Aotearoa James Blackburne. "It's their role to care for our heritage, not to destroy our heritage."

The building was designed by the country's first registered Maori architect, John Scott, in 1976. It was closed and condemned in 2008 after it was found to be rotten and leaking, but Mr Blackbourne says that's not true.

"We've got letters from Department of Conservation dating back to as early as 2012 that categorically state the building does not leak."

The Department of Conservation says the building has had stability issues for years and it would cost around $3 million to fix. It's a decision that's left the son of the centre's architect utterly dismayed.

"It's putting people out of their rightful place as manawhenua here who want it," says Jacob Scott, son of John Scott. "The building's quite viable. It's easily repairable. There's a dearth of support for it."

Hawke's Bay iwi Ngati Ruapani are against the demolition too, but Tuhoe are happy to see it go.

The demolition will take around eight weeks before plans for a new centre are put in place.


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