Gisborne Herald: Journey to the first light

Feb 22, 2019
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 Published: December 19, 2018 2:36PM

Culturally rich experience: A view of the sunrise looking from Mount Hikurangi to Aorangi with Hikurangi in the foreground. A sunrise tour is one of three new tour options available from January 3 in the Maunga Hikurangi Journey to the First Light tourism experience.

A NEW tourism experience, Maunga Hikurangi - Journey to the First Light, will be launched next month by Ngati Porou Holding Company Ltd.Activate Tairawhiti general manager tourism Adam Hughes says this is an exciting step forward for regional tourism.

“More than 50 percent of overseas tourists take part in cultural activities, so we know that visitors want authentic experiences like this. Not to mention locals who have yet to climb the maunga, or who want to do so with the opportunity to learn first-hand about the maunga’s immensely significant national, local and Maori history.”

Tours start on January 3.

Ngati Porou Holding Company chairman Matanuku Mahuika says the experience is a culturally rich and authentic one, and offers the opportunity to have guided visits to the iconic whakairo (carvings) on Maunga Hikurangi and watch the sun as it greets the new day for the first time.

Once visitors are here, they will hopefully want to explore even more that Tairawhiti has to offer — the culture, the landscape, the history, the people, and the food and beverages.

“One of the things that the research is telling us about tourism, is when you have an iconic experience such as Maunga Hikurangi, you have the potential to attract interest in the region and to bring people in. If you are able to do that, then it feeds the development of the broader tourism sector within the region.”

The latest International Visitor Survey results from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) shows tourism to be a huge part of the New Zealand economy with impressive growth in recent years.

The survey says international tourism expenditure increased 7 percent to $11.1 billion for the year to September 2018. That is an increase of $650 million compared with the year ended September 2017.

An economic overview from the ANZ Research - New Zealand Weekly Focus report, published at the end of last month, shows tourism also accounted for a hefty chunk of employment — 8.4 percent of total employed (230,793 people) worked directly in tourism and an additional 6.1 percent were indirectly employed.

“That is almost 15 percent of all people in a job,” says the report.

At a local level, MBIE figures for the year ended May 2018 placed Tairawhiti in the number one spot for the fastest growing tourism spend, up 14 percent to $155 million, followed by Tasman at 13 percent to $329 million and Canterbury at 13 percent to $3.8 billion.

Mr Mahuika says there is a strong desire to develop tourism because of the opportunities the industry presents for whanau enterprise and local marae.

“We are prepared to make the investment because for us it is all about creating economic activity within the region, which in turn creates employment and new pathways for our young people.”

The Journey to the First Light was another incredible new tourism products emerging here, alongside the Voyaging Waka Hourua and soon-to-be-released Tupapa Trails.

Mr Hughes says Tairawhiti Gisborne is shaping up to be hard to beat as a tourism destination.

“We really do have it all here. It is a great time to be in the tourism industry — both to be able to share our place and knowledge with the rest of the country and beyond, and because we know this kind of activity has a direct, positive economic impact for Tairawhiti residents.”

Ngati Porou Holding Company developed the Maunga Hikurangi products with the support and experience of Amanti Tourism Limited. It has also been supported by Activate Tairawhiti, Eastland Community Trust, Te Puni Kokiri, NZ Maori Tourism and Air New Zealand.

Contact and booking information for the three Maunga Hikurangi tours — Te Urunga-Tu – The Sunrise Tour, Haramai – The Day Tour and Topa Mai – The VIP Helicopter Tour — can be found on the website