Waatea News Update

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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Monday, March 09, 2009

Whakarewarewa trimmed for slow-down

Showpiece Maori tourism ventures in Whakarewarewa have had to drastically scale back to cope with a decline in tourist numbers.

Willie Te Aho, the chair of the Whakarewarewa Village Charitable Trust, says the trust has cut staff by a third to 20 people over the past year through attrition and redundancies.

Those cut includes maintenance, administration, and some guiding positions.
He says a 15 percent drop nationally in inbound visitor numbers is hitting the tourism heartland.

“We've just gone through what they consider the peak season which runs from November through to March so the suck it and see period is going to be the next six months as we go into the off peak season. We are optimistic the changes we have made and the current arrangements we have are enough to see us through the off peak season and we will be facing a financial loss. It won’t be a sizeable one but it will be a loss,” Mr Te Aho says.

One bright spot on the horizon is the planned return of Crown land in the thermal valley to a trust representing Ngati Wahiao, Tuhourangi and Ngati Whakaue, which should allow consolidation and rationalisation of the area's Maori tourism ventures.


Meanwhile, Butch Bradley, the chair of Wellington Maori tourism body Te Ara A Maui, says Maori operators need to keep focused on the personal touch.

Mr Bradley says tourism is about more than landscapes and physical attractions.

He says the international visibility of aspects of Maori culture like ta moko and the haka mean visitors are keen to get off the tour bus and meet people kanohi ki te kanohi.

“So when people come here it’s not just about geysers and kayaks and bunjy jumping. They want to meet the locals. Many of our tourists are coming from European countries that have strong cultural backgrounds. They want to hear the New Zealand story, and then they want to hear the Maori story. They get culture. They want to hear about our culture,” Mr Bradley says.

Te Ara O Maui’s new in-flight video for Air New Zealand on Te Upoko o Te Ika, the bottom of the North Island, should whet the appetites of incoming tourists.


Atamira Dance Collective is taking on the challenge of moving to the sound of traditional instruments.

Choreographer Louise Potiki Bryant says taonga puoro master Richard Nunns is supplying the music for her new work, Taonga: Dust, Water and Wind, which opens this week as past of the Auckland Festival.

The dancers in the nine-year-old Maori company will also play.

“Just by learning about the instruments and listening to Richard talk and dancing to them really changes the way we work and it’s really inspired some of the movement, just listening to the instruments and how that makes you move, so it’s been a really lovely process combining the two disciplines I guess,” Ms Potiki Bryant says,

Her inspiration for the piece was the myth of Rona and the Moon, mixed with childhood memories of her aunt.


School principal turned Labour list MP Kelvin Davis is welcoming a proposal to let wananga take over the schooling of Maori students who are falling through the cracks in mainstream high schools.

The idea was raised at a Hui Taumata symposium in Wellington on Friday.

Hui chair Dr Ngatata Love said radical thinking was needed on Maori education including letting students as young as fourteen opt out of mainstream.

Mr Davis, who won praise for his management of the predominantly Maori Kaitaia Intermediate says it’s the kind of idea that needs to be explored.

“We need to look at as many ways as possible of making sure our kids moved on to tertiary and higher education and if there are barriers at secondary level for that to happen, I think we need to explore all the possibilities,” Mr Davis says.


A tattooed Ngapuhi kaumatua says Wanganui’s anti-gang insignia bill will lead to anti-Maori prejudice.

Wanganui MP Chester Borrow’s bill last week passed its second reading, and looks set to pass once it is through the committee stage.

ACT MP David Garrett, who is trying to get his own three strikes bill through the House, says intimidating tattoos will be covered by the Wanganui law.

But Kingi Taurua, who wears a full face moko, says there have been several incidents in recent years where people have been refused entry to pubs and clubs because staff claimed their moko could intimidate other patrons.

He says the law will create problems discerning between ta moko and gang tats.

“Our moko has been handed down from the ages and I’m really surprised at this attitude in this time and age,” Mr Taurua says.

He says it should be seen as positive that more people are choosing to wear culturally inspired body art.


We’ve had politicians boosting their careers through appearances on Dancing with the Stars.

Now we’ve got contestants thinking about their own careers in politics.

TV One Breakfast Show weather presenter Tamati Coffey from Te Arawa says he’s been practicing hard for the current series, which moves into the elimination rounds this week.

He says a win might give him the profile needed for a career switch that would make use of his Bachelor’s degree in political science.

“I even did some essays about the viability of a Maori Party so it’s funny that after I left university the Maori Party came out in full force and here they are today at the decision making table in Parliament, so I think it’s an awesome thing,” Mr Coffey says.


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