At the start of the 20th century visitor numbers to Rotorua had recovered from the 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption. The government controlled most of the lands containing thermal springs in the Rotorua and Taupō districts. In 1901 these came under the auspices of the Department of Tourism and Health Resorts, headed by the energetic T. E. Donne. The tourist department controlled the presentation of Māori culture under Donne, who attempted to recreate a romantic Māori past at Whakarewarewa. Māori were sidelined from the tourist economy, becoming employees or cultural exhibits themselves.
Shift in power
In 1903 the department inaugurated the Waimangu round trip, which traversed the scenes of the eruption. It became very popular with tourists, due to the spectacular Waimangu geysers, which were active from 1900 to 1904. Guide Alfred Warbrick was from Ngāti Rangitihi, not from Tūhourangi, who had previously controlled tourism in the area. Power had shifted from the tribe to the Department of Tourist and Health Resorts. Tūhourangi had gone from being independent operators to subsistence farmers, reliant on state aid when emergencies arose.
In the 19th century visitors hired Māori tour guides. Two of these, Sophia Hinerangi (Grey) and Kate Middlemass, became well-known. This tradition continued in the 20th century and some of the newer guides became household names, including Mākereti Papakura (Guide Maggie), her half-sister Bella, and Rangitīaria Dennan (Guide Rangi).
From real to false
The tourism department under T. E. Donne attempted to build a model pā on the site of Rotowhio, a centuries-old fighting pā on a hill adjacent to the geyser valley at Whakarewarewa. The real pā was destroyed to build the model pā, and local Māori questioned its authenticity (as did Pākehā soldier Gilbert Mair), some calling it a ‘paraka hōia’ (soldiers’ barracks).
In the early 20th century the Māori presence at Ōhinemutu and Whakarewarewa was still highly valued as a tourist drawcard, but the government and the town board invested little in the infrastructure of either village. Housing was dilapidated and, unlike the rest of Rotorua, Whakarewarewa had no sewerage system. In 1902 Donne had proposed a model pā, which was dogged by controversy over its design. It finally opened in 1910.
Over time the pā deteriorated and became deserted. Living conditions at both villages became a national issue, but was motivated more by the impact on Rotorua as a tourist destination than the welfare of villagers. A formal government inquiry was initiated in 1926. The inquiry recommended assistance to upgrade housing, but when this didn’t happen, the villages continued to deteriorate, leading to complaints from visitors and bad publicity.
Alongside Rotorua and the ‘hot lakes’, attention was directed at the ‘cold lakes’ and other scenic attractions of the South Island. Māori land ownership in the South Island had been almost entirely extinguished by the 1860s, so Māori had little involvement with tourism there.
With the advent of jet travel to New Zealand in the 1960s, visitor numbers increased dramatically. When the Tourist Department dubbed 1966 ‘Haere-mai [welcome] Year’, there were criticisms from some Māori, who argued there should have been consultation with Māori before the campaign was launched.
Māori control of tourism
An act of Parliament in 1963 established the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute at Whakarewarewa. Beyond the Institute, Māori had limited roles in owning and managing tourist businesses. However, Māori culture still played a key role in the promotion of New Zealand to prospective visitors.
A handful of tourism businesses in the Rotorua area remained in Māori ownership. Ngāti Rangiteaorere continued to control the thermal reserve at Tikitere. Mokoia Island was managed by the Mokoia Island Trust, controlled by Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Rangiteaorere, Ngāti Rangiwewehi and Ngāti Uenukukōpako. At the end of the 20th century, Māori cultural tourism still centred on Rotorua – mainly the Tamaki Māori Village (a replica early Māori village), together with Whakarewarewa village and Te Puia, which incorporated the Māori Arts and Crafts Institute.