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Whisky history . . . Infrastructure minster Shane Jones reads about the McRae family who immigrated to New Zea land from Scotland in 1872 and settled in the Hokonui Hills where they distilled whisky. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones describes the Maruwai project as “one of the most iconic projects I’ve been involved in”.

When he was in Gore last week, Mr Jones was updated on progress being made on the project and offered some material help.

In April 2019, Mr Jones announced a Government Provincial Growth Fund $1.6million grant for the Maruawai project, a major upgrade of the Hokonui Moonshine Museum and Gore’s heritage precinct.

Gore district arts and heritage curator Jim Geddes took Mr Jones on a tour of the Hokonui Moonshine Museum which is closed while builders make alterations.

During the tour, Mr Jones met builder John Dennison and questioned him about the materials he was using to make the displays.

Mr Dennison said he was searching for old timber and building materials to create an authentic look.

“You can’t replicate that look [of] the old natives and it suits our theme,” Mr Dennison said.

Mr Jones offered to find out if the wood from KiwiRail buildings which were being dismantled in Dunedin would be suitable.

Mr Geddes explained the history of moonshine whisky in the district and explained the planned displays.

Mr Jones said it was not only the Hokonui whisky “brand” associated with the project that was “iconic”.

“It’s a slice of New Zealand’s social history that helps bring the place alive,” the minister said.

His experience of studying history had involved subjects not relevant to this nation.

“New Zealand’s social history needs to be taught and brought to life so it’s a valuable tourism product but it means something to the local people.

“The narrative and yarn has to be popularised and made more accessible, and what I saw today they’re doing it exactly that.”

Now international tourist numbers had diminished it was important New Zealanders travelled.

“Kiwis have to get out and support our own country and this is valuable additional product.”