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Waka takes visitors on journey into Maori culture

News release
November 1, 2007

Waka takes visitors on journey into Maori culture

Visitors to Christchurch wanting authentic cultural experiences can now take an educational trip aboard a waka and learn about Ngai Tahu’s rich history during their stay in the city.

Maori Party co-leader Dr Pita Sharples and Ngai Tahu kaiwhakahaere (chairman) Mark Solomon will help Katoro Maori Tours officially launch the waka at a special ceremony at Clearwater on Sunday, November 4. Mayor Bob Parker and Canterbury Tourism chief executive Christine Prince will also speak at the launch.

Katoro’s waka will take visitors on an authentic Ngai Tahu voyaging experience on the picturesque Purukaunui (Styx) River skirting the northern fringes of Christchurch.

It’s the latest addition to a growing tourism hub in the north-west of Christchurch centred round the internationally-renowned Clearwater Golf Club and Peppers Clearwater Hotel. Nearby are the International Antarctic Centre and Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, which is home to the Ko Tane Maori Experience. The area is also gateway to the wine-growing region of Waipara and the alpine thermal wonderland of Hanmer Springs.

On board the waka, which has been named Te Kowhai, visitors will be taught how to paddle the 10-metre long vessel and learn about the significance waka has played in the history of the South Island’s prominent Maori iwi (tribe) and hear some of the stories that form the backbone of Ngai Tahu culture.

During the three-hour experience visitors will paddle to historic sites that are culturally significant to Maori and also learn about traditional fishing techniques and harvesting.

“Tourists these days are looking for real experiences. They don’t just to want to sit back and watch – they want to be actively involved. This is a great way to introduce them to Ngai Tahu culture and to give them real insight into the indigenous people of the South Island in a way that is informative, informal and fun,’’ says Dave Brennan, whose family belongs to Ngai Tahu and is behind the venture.

“This is something that they cannot experience anywhere else in the world; in fact it is something they cannot experience anywhere else in the South Island. It is fitting that we’re using waka to bring our culture to our visitors from around the world because it was waka that brought Ngai Tahu to the South Island.’’

Christine Prince is welcoming the new Maori tourism venture as another drawcard for both domestic and overseas visitors to the region.

“Most Kiwis have only seen waka on ceremonial occasions; now for the first time they’ve got the chance to actually paddle a waka and to get a real appreciation for the role it has played in shaping our country and culture. I hope it’s not just overseas visitors who seize this opportunity to learn more about what makes New Zealand unique,’’ Christine Prince says.

Associate Tourism Minister Dover Samuels says Katoro Maori Tours waka will enrich the tourism landscape in Christchurch and add to the already diverse range of Maori tourism products.
“An authentic indigenous cultural experience is a growing sector in New Zealand,’’ says Mr Samuels. In 2006, approximately 20% of all international visitors to New Zealand took the opportunity to engage specifically in a Maori cultural experience during their visit. A conservative estimate would put this number at 455,000 visitors.
International tourists with the highest propensity, or likelihood of visiting a Maori cultural experience were from China (51% of all Chinese tourists visited a Maori cultural experience), Germany (35%) Korea (33%) and Canada (30%).

Te Kowhai seats 10 paddlers but has a capacity of 14 people. It has been built to maximize safety, speed and durability. The tau ihu (nose) and tau rapa (bow) of the waka were carved by TeAri Brennan.

Katoro Maori Tours, which along with the Willis family runs Ko Tane at Willowbank, has been running waka excursions for the conference industry since April but this is the first time it has offered the experience to the general tourism market.


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