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Māori tourism 2019 Dragons' Den Winners are...


Expect to see Aotearoa’s oldest dish more prominently on the menu after Tāmaki Makaurau’s Hangi Master took out the New Zealand Māori Tourism’s Dragons’ Den 2019 Wow Us award, worth $20,000.

At Tuahiwi Marae in Ōtautahi (Christchurch) on Tuesday evening, five aspiring Māori tourism experiences were awarded cash prizes to a total of $70,000 after presenting on stage to four taniwha as well as an audience of more than 100.

Those taniwha were: Te Runanga o Ngāi Tahu kaiwhakahaere (chair) Lisa Tumahai, Auckland Airport’s Tourism and International Market Development Manager Mark Frood, Tourism Business Advice Director Lesley Immink and Te Runanga o Ngāi Tahu’s General Manager Strategy and Influence Rakihia Tau.

Hon. Shane Jones, Minister for Regional Economic Development, attended the Tuesday evening to present the awards.

The categories of the 2019 Māori tourism Dragons’ Den were: Bring Your Idea to Life, Small Māori Tourism Business with a Big Idea, and Journeys of Aotearoa through Māori Tourism.

Hangi Master’s Rewi Spraggon (Ngāti Hine, Te Kawerau a Maki, Ngāti Maniapoto) was awarded, not only the top Dragons’ award, but also a $10,000 cash prize for the category: Small Māori Tourism Business with a Big Idea.

Rewi plans to expand and develop a mobile portable hangi pit to cook throughout the Tāmaki Makaurau region, enabling the business to more readily capture the event market. He intends to educate rangatahi with ancient cooking techniques, provide visitors with more insights into Maori tikanga and spread manaakitanga around the world.

The category Journeys of Aotearoa through Māori Tourism, worth $10,000, was awarded to Ngā Toru Rākau, made up of Nadine and Karl Toetoe, Koro Carman, and James Brown (Ngāti Manawa, Ngāi Tai, Ngā Puhi).

The Ngā Toru Rākau concept intends to link three ancient forests being: Northland (Footprints Waipoua with Tane Mahuta), Auckland (Te Haerenga Guided Walks, Rangitoto Island with NZ’s largest Pohutukawa Forest) and Whirinaki Forest in the Central North Island.

The concept will see each of the three tribal forest and walking/hiking products grouped together as a collective Cultural and Environmental experience.

And finally, for the Bring Your Idea to Life award, a last-minute decision from the New Zealand Māori Tourism Board meant that all three finalists were awarded a cash prize of $10,000 each.

Tūmai Communications’ Victoria Campbell (Kāti Irakehu, Kāi Tahu) was awarded for her concept of a Māori star gazing experience allowing manuhiri to camp out in star gazing pods in the Otago region.

Te Koharaki Mason (Ngāi Tahu, Kāti Waewae) was awarded for her idea of a sea to source jetboat experience from Te Tai o Poutini, Hokitika through the sky-blue braided river plains up the Hokitika Gorge.

And Jeseas Charters’ Jessie Thatcher (Te Aitanga a Haiti, Ngāti Porou) of Tolaga Bay, was awarded for her idea to take visitors on a catch your own crayfish, fishing and cuisine experience incorporating local history and tikanga.

New Zealand Māori Tourism Chairperson Dale Stephens said he was blown away with the calibre of ideas that were presented to the taniwha and audience in Ōtautahi.

“The judges had some very difficult decisions ahead of them. Everyone that presented deserved to win,” he said.

“It is so inspiring to see whānau embracing the tourism kaupapa to share our culture and provide outstanding tourism experiences for our manuhiri.

“The ideas that came out over the last two days was another confirmation of our level of entrepreneurialism, innovativeness and passion.

“All finalists were considered worthy winners and the taniwha and New Zealand Māori Tourism wish to highly commend all shortlisted finalists who made presentations today.”

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