Unique cultural initiative to test Northland tourism market
This summer Otuihau (Whangarei) Falls will be the location for a pilot Maori tourism venture which has been eight years in the process.
The whanau of Pehiaweri Marae lead by Joby Hopa will bring alive the narrative of 'Waiora', sharing with visitors the history of the whenua (land) and the awa (Hatea River) with a guided tour and evening cultural performance.
This pilot project will help gather much needed data to support and develop the refinement of this project. Cultural performances will be held in the adjacent reserve starting at 5.30pm with amphitheatre style seating.
The pilot will run until February 7, 2017.
Hopa says the falls provide an authentic visitor experience and reflect the true spirit of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) and manaakitanga (hospitality).
He says over the years the marae has had high usage by the wider Whangarei and Northland community and has gained a reputation for its hospitality, spirit and inclusiveness of all peoples. On average 10,000 people per year use these facilities.
The marae has won awards for its health projects and is seen as a progressive organisation throughout the region, who are able to support a range of cultural, social, health, sport, and local needs.
The project has progressed with assistance from local agencies Northland Inc, Creative Northland, Whangarei District Council and NorthTec.
Hopa says it can be argued Whangarei will never realise its full tourism potential without truly embracing Maori and their unique culture.
Whangarei MP Dr Shane Reti sees this as an inspiring cultural initiative for Whangarei.
He says 'Pehiaweri Marae plays an important role in Tikipunga Economic Development.