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Major re-investment in Maori tourism business

MEDIA RELEASE
Friday, 13 January 2006

Major re-investment in Maori tourism business

Te Puia, formerly known as the NZ Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, is re-investing in the future of the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley in Rotorua with the biggest ever private investment in Maori tourism in New Zealand.

This reflects the increased focus on promoting New Zealand’s indigenous roots to international visitors.

Resource consents have been approved and the construction of a new visitor centre, art gallery, carving and weaving schools and the development of new tourism products, such as an interactive virtual tour of the mud pools and geysers, is due to commence in April.

The visitor centre will feature extensive exterior carvings telling the story of the Whakarewarewa Valley. It is estimated the carvings will take a year to complete and will be created by the centre’s past and present students and master carvers.

Andrew Te Whaiti, CEO, Te Puia says: “The new development will position Te Puia as the Maori Cultural Centre of New Zealand.

“The challenge is to create an experience for visitors to see the world through the eyes of Maori and develop an understanding of our culture, arts and crafts by using a variety of media and sensory activities,” he says.

Te Puia is working closely with the Department of Conservation, Ministry of Tourism, Treasury, Tourism New Zealand, Office of Treaty Settlements, Rotorua District Council and the Historic Places Trust to ensure the development protects and enhances the natural environment of the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley and guarantees its sustainability as a world class tourism destination.

The site development follows the recent launch of several new cultural experiences which are already attracting visitors to Te Puia this summer.

State-of-the-art lighting has been installed in the valley to extend guided nature walks into the early evening and visitors can also enjoy an outdoor restaurant style banquet under the stars. The new nature track features interactive signage and viewing platforms are positioned at scenic spots along the route.

The Living Pa has been revitalised so that the site is brought alive and visitors can touch, smell and in some cases taste authentic demonstrations of how Maori used to live.

The art gallery is currently showing some of the finest examples of modern Maori carving and weaving with themes that tell the stories of the land in the surrounding Whakarewarewa Valley. A virtual display of Maori weaponry is also showcased.

George Hickton, CEO, Tourism New Zealand says: “Our indigenous Maori culture continues to thrive and Te Puia’s authentic tourism product is the sort of experience New Zealand’s international visitors are seeking.

"Te Puia is creating experiences for their visitors that not only deliver on the promise but challenge them to view the world slightly differently – to interact, learn and discover," he says.

Mayor of Rotorua, Kevin Winters, says: “Te Puia is an innovator in cultural tourism with more than half a million visitors a year.

“The new cultural experiences provide even greater insight into the stories of our people and gives each visitor a lasting impression of what Maori culture is,” he says.

A guardian of Maori culture and promoter of Maori arts and crafts, Te Puia is New Zealand’s Maori Cultural Centre.

ENDS

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