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Sustainable tourism in New Zealand through an indigenous lens

Nurturing the sustainability of tourism in New Zealand (Aotearoa) involves recognising its beautiful landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and rich Māori culture. As the tourism industry thrives in NZ, there is a growing awareness of the need to preserve and restore the natural beauty that draws millions of visitors annually. What sets New Zealand apart in its commitment to sustainable tourism practices is an entirely distinctive approach inspired by indigenous Māori principles and worldviews.

Kaitiakitanga, an indigenous concept interwoven into New Zealand’s spirit, champions the guardianship of the land. This Māori ethic creates the foundation for a unique perspective on sustainable tourism, emphasizing the interconnectedness between nature and all living entities. Visitors, tourism providers, and residents are encouraged to actively protect and conserve New Zealand’s ecosystem. The guiding principle of stewardship permeates the tourism industry, giving rise to initiatives like native regenerative planting projects, carbon offset programs, and waste management strategies.

North Island, New Zealand – Living the legacy: A Māori guide’s journey 

In the North Island of New Zealand, James Beckett, the director, and owner of Manawa Tours. Is a beacon of indigenous-guided experiences, demonstrating the essence of kaitiakitanga. James is more than a tour guide, he is a storyteller sharing Māori culture and values.

“As a Māori, my connection with the land goes deep. It’s not just about the stunning spots; it’s about sharing our stories, culture, and values. He continues “When you’re walking with me, you’re walking through the footsteps of my ancestors”. For James and Manawa Tours, respect for the land is essential, “We treat it as a taonga, a treasure. It’s about taking only memories and leaving only footprints.”

Manawa Tours goes beyond sightseeing, delivering an immersion into indigenous perspectives. “It’s about seeing the land as a living being, one that sustains and nurtures us,” James explains, inviting travellers to view NZ through a Māori lens. James’ dedication to sustainable outcomes is not just about showcasing the land but cultivating a cultural responsibility to care for the land as a living and breathing network. Manawa Tours serves as a unique bridge between cultures, cultivating a deeper understanding of Māori values and the delicate ecosystem of New Zealand.

Manawa Tours is an honourable model in the broader context of New Zealand’s sustainable tourism initiatives. The indigenous lens, epitomised by guardianship, provokes a mindset shift for travellers. Fostering a balanced union between cultural consideration and environmental sustainability. Tourism providers in NZ, demonstrated by Manawa Tours, are dedicated to educating visitors about the cultural and ecological significance of the places they journey. Embracing indigenous values and promoting heightened indigenous representation encourages cultural cross-pollination, offering a more immersive experience that transcends the superficial.

South Island, New Zealand – Guardians of Kiwi culture

Tiaki Tours, another tourism enterprise that embraces the commitment to sustainable tourism, guided by indigenous ideologies. Tiaki Tours, a boutique tour company, and a family-run enterprise, ensures a personal touch, keeping groups small to maintain the authenticity of the ‘Kiwi experience’. This boutique tourism provider is grounded in the principles of manaakitanga, kaitiakitanga, and whanaungatanga, exceeding conventional travel.

This tour company showcases Manaakitanga—caring for guests with a commitment beyond convention. While embracing the Māori value of Kaitiakitanga, guides take on the role of ‘stewards’ of New Zealand’s natural ecosystem. This commitment facilitates a deep connection between travellers and the environment. Embracing a regenerative approach, Tiaki Tours positively impacts the precious land they traverse. They prioritise providing eco-centred tours. Additionally, eco-friendly transport, localised travel, partake in regenerative planting, track carbon output, and only work with sustainably inclined companies.

Tiaki Tours promotes gratitude to the original occupants of New Zealand. The company invites travellers to be part of a story that intertwines cultural heritage with the land. “We acknowledge and offer our respect and gratitude to our tangata whenua, the original inhabitants of this land.”

Veronika Vermeulen

Veronika Vermeulen is Director of Aroha New Zealand Tours Ltd. Aroha New Zealand Tours Ltd. has been offering 100% tailored journeys and private guided luxury experiences in New Zealand since 2000.

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  1. That heading, “Guardians of Kiwi Culture” is a big one. We’re losing indigenous culture so fast, all over the planet, that anything we can do to preserve it should be supported.

    1. Absolutely, the title “Guardians of Kiwi Culture” carries significant weight. Indigenous cultures worldwide face threats of dilution, and every effort to preserve and support them is crucial.

  2. We often forget how important stories have been throughout human history. It would be fascinating to hear some Mairi stories as stories were always used to preserve values and traditions. When you think about it we still love our stories, it’s just that nowadays we get them through our Amazon, Disney or Netflix subscriptions!

  3. After this week’s shocking news about record temperatures it’s time that we all took sustainability far more seriously.

  4. There’s plenty to learn for many countries here. Making use of your indigenous talent and linking it to sustainability is creative thinking.

    1. Thankyou for your comment! The connection between indigenous culture and sustainability is a powerful concept. It not only promotes cultural richness but also ensures a more harmonious relationship with the environment.

  5. When you plant a tree there must be a real compulsion to go back and see how it’s getting on a few years later.

  6. The Māoris that I’ve met have always impressed me. The’ve always been able to carry on with what they believe, not too affected by the modern world.

    There are a lot of different experiences here to encourage people to visit New Zealand.

  7. When people ask me why I’m such a travel addict, part of my answer usually has something to do with seeing the world through different sets of eyes. I get the impression that seeing New Zealand through an indigenous lens would definitely tick that box.

    1. Absolutely! Traveling provides a unique opportunity to broaden one’s perspective, and experiencing a destination through different cultural lenses adds an extra layer of richness. How has seeing the world through diverse perspectives influenced your own worldview?

  8. This was so refreshing to read and very cheering. It’s not often that travel companies recognise the potential of the indigenous people to contribute to such worthwhile travel experiences.

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