Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Tauranga mounts Maori challenge


Rotorua tourism officials are not overly concerned about a possible cultural tourism challenge from Tauranga, but say the city must stay ahead of the game.

The Bay of Plenty Times has revealed plans for a $4 million cultural centre at Coronation Park, next to the Port of Tauranga, to cash in on the booming cruise ship market.

Mount Maunganui property investor Dr Randall Douglas and financial analyst Maia Ririnui unveiled the concept to the Tauranga City Council on Monday.

Mr Ririnui said the cultural centre would offer a high-tech cultural experience of an international standard promising an "iconic" design based on a traditional Maori wharenui (meeting house) but with a contemporary interior.

Dr Douglas said the project was "heavily dependent on cruise ships" and asked the Tauranga City Council for support and guidance through the resource consent process.

Destination Rotorua Marketing general manager Oscar Nathan said Rotorua was fortunate to benefit from Te Arawa's legacy as leaders in Maori cultural visitor experiences.

"That said, Tauranga Moana has for a number of years been offering cultural experiences to cruise ship manuhiri [visitors] through the likes of Paparoa and others and during this time Rotorua has continued to realise growth in daytime visitation from cruise ship passengers."

He said the reality was tourism, like any industry, was competitive and it was no surprise Tauranga was looking for ways to extract more value from the growing cruise sector.

"The message in these sorts of announcements for us here in Rotorua is to ensure we remain committed to the delivery of quality and are continually reviewing, revising and repositioning our cultural expression in ways that are not just traditional but also contemporary.

"At the end of the day, cruise passengers come to Rotorua not just because of culture but because we offer a rich tapestry of visitor experiences," he said.

Tauranga iwi Ngai Te Rangi chief executive Brian Dickson said he was unaware of the plan until contacted by reporters.

"I would have thought that if they had done their homework they would have contacted us ... it is right in the middle of Ngai Te Rangi territory."

Mauao Cultural Centre

  • Cultural experience

  • Live performances

  • Cinema

  • Cafe and retail

  • Tourist information services

  • Convention space

- Bay of Plenty Times

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