Yesterday TRM reported on the first item on Turangi’s Christmas wish list – the Caves of Mordor, hidden in an underground power station just off SH1 waiting to be discovered by tourists. Today the second lost treasure waiting to be rediscovered is the Turangi Museum. Unlike the underground power station which has never been opened, the Turangi museum once was open as an extension of the original visitors centre. Indeed some 45 years ago it was regarded as a national treasure and reportedly attracted 250,000 visitors in 1970. The parking area had to be extended to accommodate six buses at a time. So where is it now?
Amazingly the original museum is still there. Parked off to one side of State Highway 41 on the southern fringe of residential development among industrial factory development the original building still stands waiting for an enterprising imaginative council to re-open it. Sadly, when it comes to Turangi, there is no such thing as an imaginative Council…
The photo above shows the front entry to the building featuring a section of one of the pipes from the Tail Race of Tokaanu Power Station. Below are some other historic relics rotting and rusting away – surely they should be on display at the Visitors Centre?
The pre-maori artefacts and other historical exhibits, were arguably the most extensive collection of pre-maori moa hunter artefacts in NZ. Te Papa pinched most of them about 40 years ago but will not return them. Perhaps they are too valuable for public display?
The prize exhibit should be the 45 cm ceremonial adze found by local schoolboy, Ray Parker, in the Poutu River. The Dominion National Museum rewarded him with a crown. They dated it around 400AD. It was carved from stone/marble from the Nelson region – confirming they were trading 1700 years ago. It was considered so valuable they made a replica for display. So where is it now?
How ridiculous is that?. Here is a quaint little tourist town struggling economically hiding a world class collection of pre-Maori artefacts that attracted so many tourists over 40 years ago. Taupo Council closed it. How can the council or DGLT (Destination Great Lake Taupo) and DOC (Department of Conservation) allow that to happen? Perhaps they have another agenda to hide the early history or do not want to attract more tourists to Turangi!
The collection was unearthed mainly from the excavations for the Tokaanu tail race below the power station. Briefly, back in the 1960’s for several years under the watchful eye of Trevor Hosking, the MOW archaeologist, they carefully excavated 16 villages, found 246 dwellings, 20 burial sites, moved 71 bodies (now re-buried above Tokaanu), and collected all manner of artefacts from around 400AD.
That was about 800 years before the Maori fleet was claimed to have arrived from the Pacific Islands. Fascinating stuff…
Trevor Hosking recorded it in his autobiography – A Museum Underfoot. There is heaps of local evidence – i.e. A well know Turangi local prepared the inventory of all the exhibits for the Dominion Museum in Wellington – as it was back then. So where is it now? Turangians want it back please… Requests to Te Papa in the past have not been answered. Smell something fishy?
In 2009 Trevor Hosking, of Taupō, received the Queen’s Service Medal for services to the conservation of historic places. Mr Hosking has been actively involved in the restoration and protection of historic places in the Taupō area for more than 50 years. He has worked to ensure the protection and restoration of local sites of significance, including the Armed Constabulary Hall, burial caves on Motutaiko Island, Rauhoata Cave, the Napier/Taupō Armed Constabulary Redoubts, the Te Porere Redoubt, the Tarawera rock drawings, and the Opepe Canoe.
He also worked with Ngati Tūwharetoa to undertake excavations and record several early Māori occupation sites, including the caves at Whakamoenga Point and the shelter at Waihora Bay. Mr Hosking was also involved with the Taupō-nui-a-Tia Māori Youth Club.
The image above on right is an old photo of Trevor building the displays for the museum about 45-50 years ago.
So that is Turangi’s 2nd request on their Christmas wish list. Based on previous interest, if the museum was reopened, it could easily generate enough tourist traffic to pay for the management of the iSite. No other town in NZ has such a valuable collection locked away. Almost as stupid as hiding the only underground power station in the North Island…
But that is Turangi. Tomorrow is the biggie – the 3rd in Turangi’s Christmas wish list. Don’t miss it.