Opening date announced for Te Papa’s ground-breaking nature zone

The biggest change to Te Papa since the museum opened will be unveiled to the public on 11 May 2019.

Te Taiao Nature, Te Papa’s brand new $12 million nature zone, is a bold and immersive journey through the natural world of Aotearoa New Zealand, combining cutting-edge science with mātauranga Māori.

The 1,400-square-metre zone is a permanent new addition to the museum. Entry is free.

Te Papa revealed yesterday that a priceless moa egg, one of only 36 in the world, will be at the heart of the spectacular new space.

Te Taiao Nature will feature over 1,200 collection items from New Zealand’s natural world, along with dozens of brand-new interactive experiences, from creating your own tsunami to weighing in against a giant moa. It replaces Te Papa’s previous nature area, which closed in April 2018. While the exhibition is completely new, two old favourites will return: the colossal squid and a revamped Earthquake House.

Te Papa Chief Executive Geraint Martin says the world-leading exhibition ushers in the next generation of the Te Papa experience.

“Twenty one years ago, Te Papa redefined how New Zealanders see themselves and their country, and Te Taiao Nature is the next twist in that Te Papa DNA,” says Mr Martin.

“This is a brand-new experience, unlike anything else in the world, and one that every New Zealander is going to want to see for themselves.”

Mr Martin says the exhibition explores pressing environmental issues like climate change, ocean health, fresh-water quality, and pest eradication.

The museum’s incredible natural history collections will be showcased throughout, including a moa egg dating at least 700 years, one of only 36 known mostly intact moa eggs in the world.

Dr Susan Waugh, Te Papa’s Head of Science, says the exhibition will inspire visitors to take action and be a catalyst for change.

“In true Te Papa fashion, the exhibition addresses big ideas in a way that is fun and interactive.

“Te Taiao Nature is all about sparking curiosity, wonder, and positive action as we embrace our role as kaitiaki of this precious land,” says Dr Waugh.

Te Papa has worked closely with iwi, communities, and researchers, and with a huge range of innovative companies, to create Te Taiao Nature.

Mr Martin says the exhibition also builds on Te Papa’s long-standing partnership with the Earthquake Commission and GNS Science.

“EQC have worked with us to bring visitors the latest understanding of earthquakes, their impacts, and how to stay safe. GNS has brought their geological expertise, as visitors experience the huge forces that continue to shape our very active islands,” says Mr Martin.

EQC’s Director, Resilience Research Dr Hugh Cowan, says they are proud to be working with Te Papa to develop Rūaumoko Active Land for Te Taiao Nature.

“One of EQC’s key functions is educating about natural disasters and ways to reduce natural disaster damage. By working with Te Papa for more than 20 years, we’re connecting with New Zealanders to raise natural hazard awareness,” says Dr Cowan.

Rūaumoko Active Land will provide an innovative and interactive experience on the risks of natural disasters and the steps people need to take to prepare themselves and their homes.”

Moa egg from Wairau Bar, 2019. Photo by Jack Fisher. Te Papa


Te Taiao Nature – an exhibition in four parts

Te Ika Whenua Unique NZ

Visitors will experience what’s weird and wonderful about our wildlife, from the gigantic to the flightless, from multiple species of moa to a plethora of moths. They’ll also discover the abundant whales and dolphins in our seas, and learn about how Zealandia split from Gondwana, and how this isolation has made our plants and animals so unusual.

Rūaumoko Active Land

Visitors will enter the realm of Rūaumoko, god of volcanoes and earthquakes, and explore the geological forces that shape our land and how we need to act in response. The beloved Earthquake House returns, revamped to be more interactive and to reflect our latest understanding of quake action.

Te Kōhanga Nest

At the heart of the exhibition is a 70-square-metre, 4-metre-high “nest” woven together from recycled materials. It symbolises the fragility of our natural world, its beauty and power – and hope for the future. Here visitors will be surrounded by beautiful bird song and images, and in the centre will be a whole but fractured moa egg. One of the nation’s most precious taonga, it is a symbol of lost mauri [life force] but also of hope.

Ngā Kaitiaki Guardians

This inspiring exhibition looks at some of the big environmental challenges that face us, such as pests, water quality, and climate change, and what New Zealanders are doing to care for their own backyard. Visitors will leave the exhibition energised to play their part as kaitiaki [guardians] of our natural world. The colossal squid, a much-loved favourite and the only complete specimen of its kind on display in the world, returns following a refresh.

About the moa egg

There are only 36 known mostly intact moa eggs in the world. Te Papa has four of these in its collection, and they will be on alternating display within Te Taiao Nature.

One of the moa eggs [photo linked below] is from a burial site at Te Pokohiwi-ō-Kupe (the Boulder Bank/Wairau Bar) in Blenheim, home to the Rangitāne o Wairau iwi, and which formed part of their deed of settlement in 2010.

The burial ground is of international significance as it contains the graves of the earliest known Māori. Buried with the moa egg was a necklace fashioned from moa bone, a taonga which is also held at Te Papa.

Judith MacDonald, Rangitāne o Wairau spokesperson, explains the mauri of this precious taonga.

“As with most taonga in our environment the mauri of the moa egg has modified and transformed to support changing needs. First as a vessel giving life through the kai it originally contained and then continuing to provide as a vessel to the young kaitiaki who might have used and treasured it as a tool and then as a taonga supporting our tupuna in their final journey. Like our tupuna who owned it. It came from our natural environment. It supported the mauri of the people in that environment and finally it returned to the environment from where it came. Rangitāne know this process as mana Atua, mana tangata, mana whenua,” says Ms MacDonald.

It is believed to be from a stout-legged moa and dates back to 1280-1300 AD.

It is 194mm in length and 139mm in width and is believed to be the 18th largest known mostly intact moa egg according to a research paper, A Catalogue of Moa Eggs by B.J. Gill published in 2006. The egg has a small hole at one end indicating its use as a water carrier.

The moa egg was found in 1939 at the Wairau Bar by a fossicking local schoolboy Jim Eyles. The egg was cracked by a spade when it was discovered.

In 1940 it was acquired by the Dominion Museum (a predecessor of Te Papa).

By the numbers

  • Collection items on display: 1,200+ which includes items on loan from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and GNS Science

  • Age of the oldest specimen on display: 140 million years (giant ammonite – shelled relative of squid)

  • Physical and digital interactives: 40+

  • Total floor space: 1,400 square metres

  • Height of the zone: 9 metres high (highest point)

  • Width and height of the Nest: 70 square metres, 4 metres high

  • Businesses/organisations collaborating on this exhibition: 60+ and more than 150 individuals

  • Cost of the exhibition: close to $12 million

  • People who visited the old nature zone: 18.5 million visitors

  • Shakes of the old earthquake house: 1.3 million

  • The biggest change to Te Papa since it opened 21 years ago

Exhibition partners

Te Taiao Nature has involved a huge number of external partners beyond Te Papa’s own team. More than 60 companies and other organisations in areas from construction to digital production, and well over 150 individuals from iwi, content experts, and community groups, have generously shared their expertise.

Te Taiao Nature is a $12 million commitment to the natural environment. It was made possible with support from the New Zealand Government through the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and the following partners and sponsors.

Core Partners: Wellington City Council, EQC, and GNS.

Grant Partners: New Zealand Lotteries Commission and the Lottery Grants Board, Pub Charity, and The Lion Foundation.

Exhibition Partner: Our Land and Water – National Science Challenge.

Supporting Partners: MacDiarmid Institute, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, Juken New Zealand Ltd, and Resene.


For interview requests, please contact:

Andrea Tandy, Senior Communications Advisor, Te Papa
029 601 0010

Notes to Editors:

The exhibition name is “Te Taiao Nature” – pronounced [teh tie-ow].

Images and captions and be found at this Dropbox link