Chanelle Armstrong says Maori culture is so much more than a song and dance

Having someone show you the best pipi beds in Ngunguru, going pig hunting, being taken to pick kawakawa leaves for Maori medicine - these are some of the important aspects of the Maori world which Mrs Armstrong and her whanau want to share.

So they created Stay Native - a social enterprise, connecting tourists with Te Tai Tokerau hosts who provide authentic cultural experiences, which officially launches at the Ngapuhi Festival in January.

"We all love to travel and when we would go travelling we always wanted to see something indigenous, we always wanted experiences which connect with the locals.


"We came home and thought maybe this is an opportunity to do something, up here in the North especially, and create more income for tangata whenua and provide opportunities for them to really capitalise on the skills that they have," Mrs Armstrong said.

The Stay Native team comprises Chanelle's husband Te Ara Armstrong, mother-in-law Pam Armstrong, sister-in-law Chala Chase, and cousin Eliza Leuluai.

Stay Native were the Supreme Winners at The Pick 2017 - a business ideas challenge hosted by The Orchard.

Mrs Armstrong said she thought people were very traditional in how they wanted to see Maori culture.

"We are sort of put into this category where we are a song and dance and that's about the extent of it but te ao Maori is so much more than that," she said.

The hosts, all from Te Tai Tokerau, include a beekeeper; a story teller; a mirimiri (Maori massage) expert, and more.

"The hosts we have are not performers, they are not rehearsed in what they want to share or what they want to give, and that's what makes it authentic," Mrs Armstrong said.

The hosts have complete control over their experience, including cost, and Stay Native take a 20 per cent commission.

Puaawai Leuluai-Walker, an expert in mirimiri, is one of the hosts.

She and her whanau will be providing one of the first experiences as she donated it as a prize which has been won by a Belgium couple.

There are two aspects to the experience, based in Whangaruru. The first is mirimiri with essential oils and a rongoa (Maori medicine) bath. The other includes accommodation on boat which has been converted into a sleeping space, dinner on the beach, and waiata around the fire.

People can choose whether to do one of these, or both.

"It's an empowering kaupapa because when I hear the words 'stay native' it's like 'you stay as you are, don't put on a show front'," she said.

Mrs Leuluai-Walker, who works and is studying a bachelor of applied social work, said mirimiri helped her earn extra cash and Stay Native would help extend that.