Bay of Islands hapū have tapped into Northland's million-dollar cruise ship industry by partnering with one of the world's leading cruise ship operators.

Bay of Islands-Taiamai hapū will launch Māori Markets at Waitangi Marae tomorrow in line with the arrival of the Majestic Princess, the first cruise ship in what promises to be a busy summer for the Bay of Islands.

The markets - which start at 8.20am and will showcase Northland Māori arts, crafts and trade stalls - are a result of a partnership between hapū and Princess Cruises, which operates 18 ships including the Majestic Princess, Sun Princess, Sea Princess and Golden Princess.

Hone Mihaka, a representative of the hapū collective, said the partnership will see the markets promoted on board and passengers shuttled by ship's tender to Waitangi Wharf.

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"We're utilising our culture inside of the tourism space. While our people and our tribe are awaiting and negotiating our ways through the towers of bureaucracy in terms of the settlement processes, this collective of hapu are getting on with establishing our own economic security. We're really excited," Mihaka said.

According to Statistics NZ, cruise passengers spent more than $14 million in the Bay in 2017-18, almost double the $7.8m of the previous season.

The 2018-19 cruise season is expected to bring a record 137,000 passengers to the Bay, well up on the previous record of 103,000 set in 2017-18.

The Majestic Princess will bring 3626 mainly American and Australian passengers to the Bay tomorrow.

Mihaka said hapū have secured 15 market dates to align with the arrival of cruise ships, with two more dates on the table.

He said the partnership was the result of a meeting in August with Sandy Olsen from Princess Cruises who was looking to strengthen the relationship between the communities the ships visit.

Olsen said this was the first time Princess Cruises had established a community relationship like this in this region.

"We see the Māori Market on Sunday as the start of the conversation with the broader community in Northland, and we expect this collaboration will grow in new ways over time," she said.

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"While Majestic Princess's maiden visit to Bay of Islands is the catalyst for the market, we envisage it will support all cruise ship visits irrespective of the cruise line - and that is the real power of the conversation that Hone and I had some months ago," she said.

Hone Mihaka, a representative of Bay of Islands-Taiamai hapū, said hapū are utilising their culture inside of the tourism space through a partnership with Princess Cruises. Photo/File
Hone Mihaka, a representative of Bay of Islands-Taiamai hapū, said hapū are utilising their culture inside of the tourism space through a partnership with Princess Cruises. Photo/File

Mihaka could not say how many people he expected to visit the market but when asked how big of an opportunity this was for stallholders, he said "how big is Texas?"

"The first thing our visitors look for when they come to New Zealand is our landscape, the second most sought after thing they are looking for is an encounter or an experience with the indigenous culture of New Zealand.

"The market would be a portal to more Māori products in and around the Bay of Islands. It connects the international visitor to our people on the ground and to the experience."

Irwin Wilson, cruise ship co-ordinator for port operator Far North Holdings, said the number of vessels visiting this year was the same as last year, 63, but they were increasing in size.

Seven visits by the Ovation of the Seas, with a capacity of 4900 passengers, and five by Majestic Princess, capacity 4272, bumped up the numbers significantly.

Robyn Stent, acting chairwoman of the Paihia Business Association and owner of the Cabbage Tree, said while retailers were struggling to compete with markets in general, it was good news to see markets at the local marae.

"For the local tangata whenua to be taking advantage of cruise boat people - this is getting money that will go into their community, it comes to the Far North in general, comes to the people who need it in the Far North. We just think it's wonderful."

Auriole Ruka, business development manager for the Innovative Business Space - He Puna Marama Trust, said about 10 stallholders from the Innonative network would be at the market.

"For us this is a huge opportunity because it's good for learning and development four our businesses. Every time we, or others, hold an event we learn more about what the customers want."

Mihaka said the marae is going to be selling cups of tea and sandwiches so it can also generate funds.

"The market has the potential to expand and grow. There's no stopping us in what other product we might include."