Maori culture is unique to New Zealand and thus forms a central component of New Zealand’s tourism product. The use (and subsequent commodification) of Maori culture as a tourist attraction for international and domestic visitors in New Zealand is both prominent and widespread. While Christchurch may not be widely recognised as a centre for Maori tourism, there are nonetheless numerous aspects of tourism in the region with significant links to the cultural heritage of Maori in Canterbury. Importantly, while tourism can act as a generator of employment and economic growth for indigenous populations, if not properly managed, tourism can also act to exploit and further marginalise indigenous cultures.
The Maori name for Christchurch is ‘Otautahi’ meaning, ‘place of Tautahi’ and was adopted by Maori as the general name for Christchurch in the 1930s. The 2001 New Zealand Census identified 21,960 Maori people in the 316,227 population of Christchurch City. The majority of these members are of the Ngai Tahu iwi.
In the 1980s the revival of Maori culture and the 1985 Waitangi Tribunal Amendment Act opened the doors for historical land grievances to be addressed. Maori were, however, badly affected by the Labour Government’s economic restructuring and privatisation policies of the late 1980s. At this time, many Maori were employed in government organisations such as railways and the Ministry of Works. Substantial unemployment resulted in the restructuring of government departments such as these. In addition, many Maori were also forced out of the commercial fishing sector because they lacked the funds to buy fishing quotas from the government. Movement into tourism sector filled the gap left by restructuring. Research by Lincoln University shows that Maori perceived the impacts of tourism as both positive and negative.
Positive cultural impacts of tourism on Maori
- Investment in future generations, by developing economic stability.
- Opportunities to meet people of other cultures and pass on some Maori culture to them.
- Society becoming more open-minded.
- Increased concern for the environment among the whole population.
- The sale of Maori arts and crafts creates interest in Maori culture and a sense of pride among the Maori people.
Negative cultural impacts of tourism on Maori
- Some international tourists do not recognise cultural values and protocol (e.g. wandering around a Marae during a Hui).
- Inappropriate use of Maori images in tourism can be culturally damaging (e.g. the Maori head is tapu).
- Commodification of Maori culture - cheap materials being used for traditional crafts.
- Not all shops selling Maori crafts are Maori owned or operated or benefit Maori in economic terms.
Zygadlo, F.K., McIntosh, A., Matunga, H.P., Fairweather, J.R. and Simmons, D.G. (2003). Maori Tourism: Concepts, Characteristics and Definition. Tourism Recreation Research and Education Centre (TRREC), Lincoln University, Report No. 36.
Zygadlo, F.K., McIntosh, A., Matunga, H.P., Fairweather, J.R. and Simmons, D.G. (2003). The Values Associated with Maori-Centred Tourism in Canterbury. Tourism Recreation Research and Education Centre (TRREC), Lincoln University, Report No. 35.
- List the two main factors that led Maori into tourism development.
- Evaluate the positive and negative impacts of tourism on Maori. Write a paragraph stating your argument that the impacts of tourism are mainly positive for Maori. Justify you choice with reasons.
- Which geographic area is most relevant to this topic? Describe the geographic idea and give examples of its applications.
- You are a Maori Tourism Consultant who has been retained by Ngai Tahu to produce a plan for further development of Maori Tourism in Christchurch. Outline your plan and justify your recommendations.
- Define the Maori term 'Manaakitanga' and explain its importance in New Zealand tourism.