Tourists to learn about tikanga Māori to avoid causing offense

By Jessica Tyson

New Zealand tourism agencies are working on ways to educate tourists about tikanga Māori, so that visitors avoid causing offense to iwi when visiting significant Māori sites.

It comes following the release of a report by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment which has recommended Tourism New Zealand and New Zealand Māori Tourism work closer together to develop Māori tourism businesses.

In recent years, significant sites that have been affected by the behaviour of visitors include the Waitakere Ranges, Mount Taranaki, Mātapouri Mermaid Pools and Tongariro National Park.

Deputy Chief Executive, NZ Māori Tourism Hoki-mai Chong says there have been occasions where people have "gone to the toilet in the ngāhere, or even in the street and so that’s not something that we as a society are used to...If you wouldn’t do it at home why do you think it’s permissible to do it here.”

The majority of tracks at the Waitākere Ranges were officially closed in 2018 in a bid to stop the spread of kauri dieback disease.

To teach visitors about tikanga, seven top tourism agencies in Aotearoa have started a campaign Tiaki.

“That provides some guidelines for visitors to New Zealand about how to respect our environment, our culture, our people and how to behave,” says Chong.

New Zealand Tourism chief executive Chris Roberts says tourism operators will be encouraged to use the material to teach visitors.

“It’s all about having respect and care for New Zealand when you’re around the country and that implies to visitors from overseas as it does to Kiwis travelling around Aotearoa, that they also need to care for this place.”

Roberts says the campaign will be seen on airlines and social media. The campaign will also be widely promoted leading into summer.

An official rāhui was put in place in April 2019 at the Matapouri Mermaid Pools.

Roberts says Māori culture is the unique point of difference for the New Zealand tourism industry.

“We should all be thinking about how we incorporate Māori tikanga into our tourism products.”

Tourism is New Zealand's biggest export earner, contributing $16.2 billion or 20.6 percent of New Zealand's foreign exchange earnings, according to statistics from 2018.

“In 2010 Māori tourism was contributing about approximately half a billion dollars. Now we're about two billion dollars. But for us the target in 2025 if four billion dollars,” says Chong.

Tourism numbers in the Tongariro National Park have caused concern for local iwi for years.

The new border tax implemented today is expected to bring $80 million a year to go towards conservation and tourism projects.

“There's already been some money allocated to develop a marae tourism experience in Northland so there will be opportunities for good sound projects and I’m sure that amongst those will be some Māori tourism products,” says Roberts.