Rugby World Cup: Maori club keen to link up with France

By Grant Bradley

Tommy Kapai Wilson. Photo / Supplied
Tommy Kapai Wilson. Photo / Supplied

A group of Bay of Plenty Maori want to capitalise on their existing French connection to build commercial and rugby bonds with France during the World Cup.

Te Puna Rugby Club claims to be the only French-Maori rugby club in the world through links dating back more than a century.

More than 40 French forestry industry chiefs have booked a day of sport and culture with the club and associated Tutereinga Marae after the All Blacks-France clash in Auckland on September 24. The club's promotions manager Tommy Kapai Wilson said he was confident other French fans and those from other countries would follow.

"We've only had one approach so far - that's forestry - but I know we'll get others that are tourism related," he said.

"It's a door opener really - rather than having to go over there on a trade mission and spending a hundred thousand dollars we've got them all coming to our front door. Let's open that door and show them what we've got."

Te Puna is one of about 3000 domestic members of the Government's New Zealand 2011 business club programme which matches firms here with counterparts from overseas for the World Cup.

Wilson said visitors to the club on the northern outskirts of Tauranga would be offered hangi and seafood with French flair as his brother Stephen, a chef, had just returned from living in Paris for 28 years.

Kapa haka groups would perform, and visitors would be shown the 100-warrior waka and a church built by French missionaries had carvings and art tracing the history of Bishop Pompallier in New Zealand.

"When you find out that you can go and visit something that we're offering it stands out much more than going for a bungy jump or having a flash feed in a restaurant," he said.

"We're a marae, we can cater for 500, not just that day but over the whole period of the World Cup. Let them all come, we'll give them somewhere to sleep for $20 not $400."

Wilson is a descendant of the Borell and Bidois families which he traced to a fishing village, Homfleur, on France's Normandy coast.

"It's a pretty special place. They'e into wine, apples and racehorses. We've got much the same, we've got kiwifruit, really good vineyards here and we've got the TAB."

Wilson has written children's books, and is a former chairman of the Maori Tourism Board.

"Using culture as a cornerstone for business is a really smart way to go because you've got something in common besides just the business."

He had been told by Bay of Plenty Tourism that 1100 French tourists were interested in local attractions.

Wilson said he hoped to form rugby links with France.

"We want to create a sister club in France because we realise there's an opportunity for our players to go away and for them to come down here ... and learn how to play the game."

New Zealand 2011 said the number of business events had been growing steadily during the last six months. In the past six weeks the number of unique visitors to its website had grown ten-fold to 2000 a day.

Events for visiting business people range from a personal mountain bike tour of our native forests, or a bush bash and BBQ, hunting or skeet shooting, off-roading 4WD adventures to luncheon, dinner and cocktail events throughout the country.

There are VIP experiences at big-ticket events such as Style Pasifika, WOW, Auckland International Boat Show and more personalised experiences in rugby clubs and at people's homes and business premises.

- NZ Herald

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