Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


Work on the upgrade of dated visitor infrastructure at Punakaiki is set to begin with Christchurch-based architecture firm Sheppard & Rout being engaged to lead a multi-disciplinary team to develop a final design for the project.

Date:  28 February 2020

The work, which is being funded by the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund, will, among other things, replace the existing almost 40-year-old Department of Conservation visitor centre that opened prior to the establishment of the Paparoa National Park in 1987.

Phil Rossiter, DOC Project Manager says, “The appointment of Sheppard & Rout and their wider design team is a major milestone for the project. It will enable the current concept design to be tested and improved and will produce more detailed information to support discussions with stakeholders. 

“Sheppard & Rout’s experience and appreciation for what is special about Punakaiki stood out in the open-market selection process. Their recent experience includes the design of the recently completed Dark Sky Project, a significant new astro-tourism experience in Tekapo.

“Dark Sky has many similarities to the Dolomite Point Redevelopment Project (DPRP), requiring sensitive and thoughtful design to integrate into an iconic landscape. The design was also developed in close consultation with Ngāi Tahu and the local Rūnanga, Ngāti Waewae, to ensure it reflected their values and aspirations.

“Sharing the cultural history of the area and supporting the aspirations of  Ngāti Waewae is a major focus for this project as we work together to establish fit-for-purpose visitor facilities and outstanding visitor experience.

“We are pleased to have awarded this contract to a supplier with a proven track record in this area and a clear passion for helping achieve this.”

The anticipated timeline for completion of the final designs is by April 2021, with construction to begin later in 2021.

Background information
Punakaiki is a key anchor for West Coast tourism and has become an iconic short-stop visitor destination on the back of the ‘Pancake Rocks’ and associated blowholes, with 500,000 visitors experiencing the ‘Pancake Rocks’ walkway annually. The investment by the Government in this site recognises its importance to the visitor economy of the West Coast.
The work required includes the final design for the experience centre, pedestrian crossing of State Highway 6, traffic management and calming measures, parking, pedestrian and cycle paths and walkways, a pedestrian promenade, toilet facilities and overall landscaping.

The work is necessary because of the growth of visitors at Punakaiki. In 2008, 213,000 people visited the Pancake Rocks. This increased to 511,000 in 2018, placing significant and unsustainable pressures on the dated facilities.

There is a wide range of other interested stakeholders including the local community, Government, industry and conservation groups. The work is being undertaken in partnership with Ngāti Waewae – who will own and manage the new visitor experience centre in their role as mana whenua of this area.

The Request for Proposal was advertised on the Government Electronic Tenders Service.

The work at the site is being led by DOC and Ngāti Waewae and involves a number of agencies and land tenures.

  • Development West Coast – agreement to make a central land parcel available to enable realisation of the most compelling and integrated spatial redevelopment concept.
  • New Zealand Transport Agency – collaboration in relation to creation of pedestrian/cycle linkages, State Highway pedestrian crossing solution and traffic calming treatment.
  • Buller District Council – close collaboration in relation to integration of the Greater Punakaiki Master Plan (GPMP) and DPRP and community objectives.
  • Williams Hotel Group – collaboration in relation to sharing of water supply and water treatment assets for mutual environmental gain and cost-reduction.


For media enquiries contact:


Back to top