Manatu Takes Pride of Place at Dart River

21 January 2012

A sacred mauri pounamu takes centre at Dart River Jet Safaris’ refurbished Glenorchy Visitor Centre.

The large pounamu stone was blessed recently by Ngāi Tahu kaumātua at a special ceremony attended by local dignitaries and business supporters.

A mauri pounamu 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.
Waihōpai Rūnanga Upoko Michael Skerrett says the placement of the mauri pounamu strengthens rūnanga links to the iconic Ngāi Tahu Tourism experience and adds a cultural dimension to welcoming visitors to the area.

“Te Awa Whakatipu (Dart River) is an area of significant cultural importance to Ngāi Tahu especially to Southern Rūnanga. These people have a very strong relationship with the area.”

The mauri pounamu was sourced during an expedition to the famed ‘Te Koroka’ in 2009, led by Ngāi Tahu and the Department of Conservation. Rediscovered in 1970, the site had remained untouched for 200 years. The area is protected by a rāhui (customary protection) and is designated as a National Special Area with entry by permit only. The stone is named ‘Manatu’ by Ngāi Tahu elders, meaning ‘a precious reminder from the throat of the reclining giant, Te Koroka’. It has recently returned home after nearly two years on show at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Kura Pounamu Exhibition.

Ngāi Tahu Tourism Chief Executive John Thorburn says the central placement of the mauri pounamu and invitation to visitors to touch the stone is all part of the welcoming experience to the centre.

“Dart River Jet Safaris is an iwi-owned business and one of the aims of the redevelopment was to showcase Ngāi Tahu traditions and share local stories with visitors to the pristine Dart River Valley,” says John Thorburn.

“We have worked closely with Ngāi Tahu kaumātua 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 Wāhi Pounamu, a UNESCO World Heritage Area.

For more information about Dart River Jet Safaris, visit