Empowering whānau in business

Dec 19, 2022

It has been a challenging few years for the tourism industry, but now that borders are re-opening and there are less restrictions in place, businesses are excited and ready to welcome manuhiri back to our beautiful motu.

Kaituhi Crisselda De Leon-Singson met whānau-owned tourism operators around the motu to discuss what they do, and how they have been supported by Puna Pakihi, a Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu business support programme.

Cathedral Cove Dive & Snorkel

Owner and operator of Cathedral Cove Dive & Snorkel, Wendy Helms (on left) prepares to dive.

Wendy Helms found the sunny and warm Coromandel Peninsula a perfect place to start a family. While originally from Moeraki, she and her whānau would go to Hahei on holiday. Their shared love for the ocean prompted her to raise her whānau there, and eventually she and late partner Russel started their business, Cathedral Cove Dive & Snorkel, in 1992.

In her 20s, Wendy was a keen diver.

“My partner and I became dive instructors and eventually our two boys also became dive instructors. It was such a nice way to be able to live and work in a beautiful place like Hahei,” she says.

“We have had the business for 32 years and we have watched the growth of Hahei over the last three decades. Thankfully, the business has grown with it.”

Hahei is derived from the Māori name for Mercury Bay, Te-Whanganui-a-Hei, or The Great Bay of Hei. According to tradition, Hei was one of three brothers who arrived in Aotearoa with Kupe and his family, who settled in Oahei, which is now Hahei. They became the tīpuna of the Ngāti Hei people.

In modern times, Hahei has become a popular holiday destination, especially in summer when the population swells to more than nine times its norm. “People from all over the world come to Aotearoa to see our amazing underwater resources.”

Cathedral Cove Dive & Snorkel have a few dive sites accessible from Hahei Beach, or a few minutes by boat. With very clear water and an abundance of diverse marine life, there is a whole new world to discover the second you dive under the surface.

“In the summer, we have a lot of pelagic fish that come through – kahawai and kingfish. Because we have a marine reserve now, we have a lot of big crayfish and big snapper that are residents. It’s always fun to bring people out, sometimes we even see stingrays,” Wendy says.

“In the winter, there are sometimes big mammals like orca that may come through, and often seals. It’s quite exciting when we do get to see them; you feel very lucky to be in their presence. There are also colourful sponges and weeds; just a lot of beauty.”

The team at Cathedral Cove Dive & Snorkel take school and small family groups diving and snorkeling. They cater for different ages and abilities.

“When you spend a lot of time by the ocean, you forget how many people don’t get the opportunity to do what we do. We provide life jackets, wet suits and boogie boards so they can make the most of the experience and be safe. My son, Josh, is great at making people who are a bit nervous feel more comfortable in the water. Some of them even become swimmers, and eventually divers too.”

Despite losing her partner Russel and son Rhys a few years ago, Wendy and Josh carried on with the business and found new whānau members in their staff. During the challenging COVID-19 years, Wendy prioritised looking after staff and using the grants she received from Puna Pakihi.

“I believe in treating staff well and looking after them. They are part of our family now.”


Tawanui Farm Glamping, Farm Tours and Jet-boat Experience

Fifteen minutes south of Cheviot in the Blythe Valley you’ll find two geodesic domes, a central camp kitchen and a large hot tub, beautifully landscaped into a gentle hillside. The breath-taking view from these domes looks down towards the Hurunui River, and on a sunny, cloudless day you can see as far as the Kaikōura mountain ranges.

This is Tawanui, a 330-hectare beef and sheep farm owned by the Loughnan whānau who have been living in Cheviot for five generations.

Mike and Elspeth run the farm alongside son Tim and wife Jaymie. Elspeth’s great-great grandfather was one of the early settlers in Cheviot.

Lunchbreak on the edge of the Hurunui river with Tawanui Farms.

Fuelled by their passion to stay on the whenua of their tīpuna, they needed to diversify their mahi to supplement the farm’s income. They thought venturing into tourism would fit with their lifestyle and allow them to share their beautiful home with other whānau.

“Mum and Dad have always hosted people. We love meeting new people and sharing our work, so we thought tourism was a good way to go,” Tim says.

“Everything needed to work around the farm, and I think we have achieved a reasonable balance.”

They developed an area for a glamping stay, expanded their farm tour offerings and started an Energy Jet jet-boat experience. Manuhiri at Tawanui Farm have plenty of options to keep them occupied.

If you stay the night, you can appreciate the stillness as you look up to the stars while soaking in the hot tub or in the warmth of your dome.

Glamping Domes at Tawanui Farms.

In the morning, after you’ve prepared your breakfast, you can join the whānau aboard their six-seater ATV motorbike as they go about their daily farm jobs. Tamariki will enjoy watching the sheep dogs at work, and perhaps help to feed the animals while learning about farm life and the ways the Loughnans look after te taiao.

Their glamping experience was the first in the Hurunui. Now in its fifth year, they have welcomed people from all walks of life.

“In the old days, everyone had an aunt, uncle or grandparents they used to go and stay on a farm with. But now people are more alienated from farming. It’s nice to give people an opportunity to see how we live, how we look after our animals, and the ones who have come to stay have absolutely loved it,” says Elspeth.

Tim’s main passion is being able to bring whānau along the Hurunui River. He says he has always had a strong connection to the awa. The Hurunui once provided an important mahika kai resource for Kāi Tahu, traditionally known for its tuna and īnaka.

Fuelled by their passion to stay on the whenua of their tīpuna, they needed to diversify their mahi to supplement the farm’s income.

“I grew up in the river, swimming there often, and I’ve always been passionate about jet-boating so, being able to take our boat on the awa and journey as far down as the coast is amazing. When I’m out there I imagine my tīpuna on their waka going up and down on this same stretch.

“There’s a lot of competition in the jet-boat industry in Aotearoa. But we’re the only jet-boat operator on the Hurunui River with access to 100km of the river.”

Farming and tourism are challenging industries, but the Loughnan whānau believes in the power of surrounding yourself with the right people and getting support where needed.

Puna Pakihi has supported the whānau with free business mentoring sessions and provided valuable business connections.

“In the future, we’re looking to add in another glamping site, and build more awareness around the jet-boat experience so more whānau can enjoy our slice of paradise,” says Tim.


Karitāne Māori Tours

“That moment when you spot the marshlands from the highway, then turn off and drive alongside the awa of Waikouaiti. Huriawa always looks so high and welcoming as you approach. Watching the birds getting on with their lives, fishing boats that never leave the harbour, and always a friendly neighbour walking their dog. Karitāne may never have been where my house is, but I feel like I’m coming home each time I arrive,” says Jonni Morrison-Deaker.

Jonni is the manager of Karitāne Māori Tours. He chose to join the business so he could learn more about his tīpuna and be closer to his whānau. Even though he’s heard the histories many times, he still loves hearing Rick Ngamoki and the other guides share the kōrero with manuhiri. “Seeing the emotion on the guest’s faces as they are transported in time through his words is always immensely special.”

The takiwā of Kāti Huirapa ki Puketeraki centres on Karitāne and extends from Waihemo in the north to Pūrehurehu Point in the south. It also extends inland to the main divide sharing an interest in the lakes and mountains to Whakatipu-Waitai with other rūnaka in the south. The earliest people in this area were Rapuwai, Hāwea and Waitaha, followed by Kāti Mamoe and more recently Kāi Tahu.

Karitāne Māori Tours waka glides down the Waikouaiti Awa looked over by the mauka, Hikaroroa.

In more modern times, the name Karitāne is associated with the pioneering paediatrician and Plunket NZ founder Sir Truby King. He founded the organisation in his house which still sits on the Huriawa Peninsula. A village rich in Māori and European history, with beautiful beaches and abundant wildlife, Karitāne is an ideal setting for a coastal adventure.

Karitāne Māori Tours offers two excursions. The first, for those wanting to deepen their connection to the natural environment, offers a trip across the enchanting Waikouaiti awa in a modern double-hulled waka guided by experts. Passengers are immersed in the customs, stories and traditions of the past, learning about Huriawa Peninsula, Ōhinepouwera (the Spit), Karitāne village nd Puketeraki Marae. During this tour, each manuhiri is able to help restore te taiao.

“We spend some time on Ōhinepouwera (the Spit), where we have developed a 200-year planting plan, replacing exotic species with native plants. As part of our coastal restoration programme, you’ll transport and plant native harakeke.”

Kāti Huirapa whānau will take you on a guided walk through a protected reserve to plant a native shrub while we share with you the stories of our tīpuna.”

Here on Ohinepouwera, visitors get to explore the South Pacific coastline by foot and, if lucky, may be visited by local wildlife, sea lions and multiple species of manu that call this place home. This activity is perfect for whānau or school groups.

Rick Ngamoki telling a story about the Puketeraki rohe.

There is also the Māori pā walking experience. “Kāti Huirapa whānau will take you on a guided walk through a protected reserve to plant a native shrub while we share with you the stories of our tīpuna,” says Jonni. There are stunning cliff-top views from Huriawa Peninsula. If the tide is high, the blow hole, Pehu will be in full swing and on a clear summer’s day you can see all the way back down the south coast towards Ōtākou Peninsula, and to your north the stunning Ōhineamio headland, which is home to Mataīnaka, an ancient pā of Waitaha.

Thanks to the Puna Pakihi mentoring support, Karitāne Māori Tours has been able to grow as a business and has enabled Kāti Huirapa whānau to share their love of being on the water with their passion for people and the environment through offering these tours.

Jonni says he feels very grateful to be a part of the team. “Karitāne Māori Tours is such an amazing business; Alex, Tania, Brendon, Kiri, Riki and Kane are the ones who deserve all the credit.

“I will be forever grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn about the importance of mauri, the stories of our tūpuna and our traditional mahika kai spots. I hope Karitāne can feel like home to everyone that visits.”


About Puna Pakihi

Puna Pakihi is an initiative to support whānau-owned businesses or whānau who have an idea for a business they are dreaming of setting up.

Puna Pakihi offers support through mentoring, as well as financial assistance to kick-start and grow Ngāi Tahu whānau-owned businesses.

They can also offer referrals to other organisations and specialist support services, free listing on the Ngāi Tahu whānau pakihi directory, as well as access to promotion through Ngāi Tahu communication channels, including social media or our print publications, Te Karaka and Te Pānui Rūnaka.

If you have a business idea that’s bubbling away, contact the Puna Pakihi team to start the process of making your dream a reality.

The following are a few tips for getting started ahead of applying for a grant.

  • Register the business. Check if there is another business with your intended name.
  • Determine who and where your target audience is.
  • Identify competitors, and your unique point of difference.
  • Clearly define your product offering.
  • Will your venture require partnerships with suppliers/customers?
  • Think about your price point.

If you have considered the above, then perhaps it’s time to reach out to the Puna Pakihi advisers. Applications for 2023 will be accepted from 2 February.

Alternatively, if you have a commercial business background and would like to support other whānau on their business journey, contact the Puna Pakihi team to become a mentor.

To find out more about the application process and details of grants, visit the Puna Pakihi website at https://ngaitahu.iwi.nz/runanga/puna-pakihi/.