Bridging cultures

Maurice and Heather Manawatu.

Maurice and Heather Manawatu.

For Maurice and Heather Manawatu, their tourism business, Māori Tours Kaikōura is all about bridge building between cultures and after eleven years, they’re proud of the fact that they’ve met tens of thousands of people from all around the world, eager to learn about Māori culture.

“It’s about bridging gaps in understanding,” says Maurice (Ngāti Kurī).
“One of the joys for us has been watching both the Kaikōura and the Māori tourism market grow and discovering the similarities we have with people worlds away. There’s an island off the Chilean coast for instance, where they cook hāngi-style, and there’s also a village in India where they make a hāngī.

“It’s also been a pleasure to see how the business has benefitted our wider whānau. Our nieces, nephews and even our grandson, have grown up with the business. They’ve met people from all around the world. They all get jobs and they’ve all learned about manaakitanga. It’s been a great way to give effect to our Ngāi Tahu values on a day-to-day basis. You can’t put a price on that,” he says.
Maurice and Heather both worked for Whale Watch prior to setting up Māori Tours and together they have more than forty years’ experience in the tourism industry. They’ve celebrated numerous successes including winning a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence and being rated the best cultural experience in New Zealand three years running by Rankers New Zealand.

Kaikōura itself has come a long way too. Once a sleepy, seaside fishing village, it changed with the establishment and growth of Whale Watch, followed by the many others who have set up in their wake. Now Kaikōura is an established tourist destination and operators like Māori Tours have evolved to meet visitor demand.

Maurice shows visitors how to utilise harakeke

Maurice shows visitors how to utilise harakeke

“We’ve changed the way we operate over the years. We still offer half- and full-day tours but now cater for a lot more educational groups from schools and organisations and we create a lot of tailored experiences – anything from two hours to three days – that can include a forest hīkoi experience, food gathering, plant identification, foreshore walks and seafood gathering and cooking and eating kai. We like to work with people to identify the best, most creative experience for them.”

Maurice and Heather see tremendous potential for the development of Ngāi Tahu whānau through small tourism businesses, especially in places like the West Coast.
“It’s a wonderful way of keeping the culture alive and we’ve talked a lot about developing a training programme of some sort. We’ve been part of that whole start-up process and we’d love to share that knowledge with others. That rings our bells a lot,” says Maurice.
“We want to pass on what we’ve learned.”