Ngati Awa Group Holdings, the commercial arm of Te Runanga o Ngati Awa, has announced it is buying iconic Whakatane tour operator White Island Tours.

White Island Tours has been operating out of Whakatane for more than 25 years showcasing New Zealand's only active marine volcano, Whakaari-White Island.

White Island Tours holds an exclusive licence for marine-based tourism on White Island.
The license to land a boat on White Island will transfer as part of the sale.

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Photo/Supplied

The sale also includes White Island Rendezvous, a 38-room motel complex with a villa, bungalow and micro-village, as well as PeeJays Cafe.

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Ngati Awa Group Holdings chief executive Geoff Hamilton said the business was a strategic acquisition and part of a wider plan to develop Ngati Awa assets in the Ngati Awa rohe.

"The investment is a commercial decision and will benefit Ngati Awa financially, but comes with wider benefits. We are thinking long term, and see White Island Tours as a key part of the community here in Whakatane.

"As the local iwi Ngati Awa will be able to incorporate this unique business into a wider Ngati Awa tourism experience, in line with increasing tourist demand for authentic cultural experiences.

"As well, a much-admired business will stay locally-owned, and with an organisation that has a long-term commitment to supporting economic growth in our region.

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"Peter and Jenny Tait have developed this visitor experience from an idea, into the fantastic operation that it is today. From their first tour, with just six people on board, to more than 17,000 visitors in the past year, White Island Tours' success is testament to the hard work of Peter, Jenny and their team.

"White Island Tours is an outstanding international tourism experience. This is an investment that all Ngati Awa can be proud of."

Ngati Awa Group Holdings said the sale would have no effect on the staffing and the employment conditions of the current staff of White Island Tours.

"It is a well-run operation with excellent staff and we hope the staff will work with us to incorporate the business into the wider Ngati Awa portfolio."

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Ngati Awa settled a Treaty of Waitangi claim with the Crown in 2005, including assets and cash of about $42 million. It has interests in agriculture, fisheries, forestry, equities and property totalling $114 million.