An open and honest telling of Taranaki Cathedral’s past will help more people understand the church’s role in the region’s turbulent history, Cathedral Project fundraising lead Cathy Thurston says.
The $15 million remediation of Taranaki Cathedral and enhancement of the site includes a world-class welcoming atrium space, which will incorporate professionally curated displays, multi-media resources and audio visual guides, recounting the church’s history and its role in the relationship between Maori and Pakeha over 175 years.
“We believe this development will truthfully represent the history of the church in Taranaki and be a great educational resource for schools, national and international visitors, and locals,” Mrs Thurston said.
“The Cathedral has played a significant and sometimes difficult role in our past, such as being used as a garrison during the Taranaki Land Wars, but our vision is a commitment to peace and reconciliation between all people, and publicly acknowledging our history, however difficult, is an important part of that.”
Mrs Thurston said the Cathedral development would complement the work of museum Puke Ariki to showcase the region’s heritage.
NPDC’s Puke Ariki manager Kelvin Day agreed, saying heritage sites, such as Taranaki Cathedral, were an important cultural drawcard for many.
“The Cathedral is such a high profile heritage site that telling part of the story of the Taranaki Land Wars there, amongst a churchyard filled with casualties of the time, will have a powerful impact on visitors and help bring the stories of the wars home to people,” he said.
“People will be drawn to a unique heritage experience. Building on the history of the site in the way proposed at the Cathedral will provide a very attractive visitor option that complements what Puke Ariki has to offer.”
Mr Day said the fact Taranaki Cathedral was making strides to address the impact and consequences of the land wars was positive.
“While the history of the wars is difficult to confront, acknowledging the actions of the past and our history is a good first step to starting new conversations for the future about how we address the past.
“The more people understand the heritage of the church and the stories of the wars, the more likely they are to engage in positive debates around our history,” he said.
Mrs Thurston said the Cathedral Project would work alongside Maori and Puke Ariki to develop and curate the displays and resources.
Puke Ariki has long-term Taranaki heritage exhibitions in the Takapou Whāriki, Taranaki Life and Taranaki Naturally galleries. Mr Day said a new exhibit on the Taranaki Land Wars would open towards the end of the year in Puke Ariki’s Gallery of Taranaki Life.