Te Puia and the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI(external link)) hold an important place in the hearts and minds of Chinese manuhiri (visitors), who are drawn to experience the combination of Māori culture and geothermal landscapes on offer.
For more than two decades, Te Puia | NZMACI has nurtured a strong relationship with the Chinese market, working to promote its offering both in China and with representatives based in New Zealand.
These strong relationships were highlighted further this week as Te Puia l NZMACI welcomed China’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Minister Luo Shugang, to experience first-hand what Te Puia offers its more than 500,000 manuhiri each year.
It was Minister Luo’s second time in New Zealand but his first visit to Rotorua. Te Puia GM Sales and Marketing, Kiri Atkinson-Crean says Te Puia considers it a privilege to have hosted Minister Luo.
During his time at Te Puia, Minister Luo was presented with a pounamu (New Zealand jade) tāonga (treasure) – a wheku carved by artist Te Tai o Rehua Cooper.
“Our longstanding relationship with China has helped us to benefit from the market. China has been incredibly good to Te Puia.”
Ms Atkinson-Crean says as well as taking the time to really understand and nurture the market – including visiting at least twice a year – Chinese visitors are drawn to the Māori culture shared by Te Puia | NZMACI.
“Despite the geographic distance, there are many kindred threads between Māori and traditional Chinese values. These include the importance of our ancestors, of whānau (family) and manaakitanga (hospitality).”
Alongside its legacy as one of New Zealand’s first tourism hosts, Te Puia | NZMACI also has a mandated responsibility to promote, preserve and perpetuate Māori art and culture. This provides visitors with an important insight into New Zealand’s identity and story, genuinely bringing Māori culture to life for manuhiri.
“Our Chinese manuhiri appreciate our culture and commerce model – they appreciate that by visiting us they are contributing to our work in training new generations in Māori material culture artform and that this ensures the preservation and promotion of our culture,” says Ms Atkinson-Crean.
In 2010, NZMACI master carver, James Rickard led a team who carved a 10-metre waka whakamaumahara (canoe cenotaph) with a two metre waharoa (gateway) for the World Expo in Shanghai. The completed carving was gifted to China by New Zealand’s then Prime Minister, Hon. John Key. A scale miniature of the carving was also presented to former Premier of the People's Republic of China, Wen Jiabao.
The project, named Te Kākano, was designed to act as a cultural portal between the two countries – an enduring symbol of cultural dialogue and engagement between the people of New Zealand and those of China.
Ms Atkinson-Crean says Te Puia l NZMACI is constantly evolving to cater for manuhiri.
“The market has matured to a point where we are beginning to see higher value visitors stay longer, want to understand, do and experience more with us.”
Te Puia | NZMACI have recently undergone extensive site developments which have further enhanced the visitor experience. The new Wānanga Precinct puts NZMACI and its national schools of wood carving, weaving and stone and bone carving at the forefront of every visit, so manuhiri can better engage with students and tutors and gain a unique perspective and understanding of their work and culture.
Ms Atkinson-Crean says this provides even more opportunities to do its mandated work and allows the organisation to better meet educational and cultural responsibilities. In turn, this gives Te Puia | NZMACI an even greater presence on the world stage.
Another new development is the new Pataka Kai (function centre, restaurant and café) overlooking Te Whakarewarewa Valley’s spectacular geothermal vista, which has increased seated dining capacity to approximately 650 people between the new Pataka Kai and existing Te Whakaruruhau, which sit adjacent to each other.
A new kiwi house, which is nearing completion and set to open later this year, will offer a more natural engagement with New Zealand’s national bird while also helping to contribute to the wider conservation efforts to ensure the long-term survival of kiwi.