He says he's an authentic Maori, with a moko scrawled on his face in black marker pen. And for $5 - and using your own camera - you too can have your photograph taken with John Kairau.

Authorities say he's an opportunist but Kairau says his scheme - in which tourists pay to have their photograph taken with a "Maori in traditional dress" - is for cultural rather than financial reasons.

Kairau bases himself on Auckland's waterfront, between the Hauraki Gulf ferries and Princes Wharf.

He has been working the waterfront since November without official sanction and was moved off Princes Wharf itself after Tourism Auckland asked him to leave.

As well as the makeshift moko, Kairau wears traditional-style dress and a greenstone pendant.

He offers tourists the chance to talk about Maori history for free or get their picture taken with him for $5.

"It gives tourists in Auckland a chance to see a real Maori. Otherwise they might not see them if it is a short visit," Kairau said.

Kairau, of Ngapuhi descent, said he had been a tohunga or priest since he was 11 and was chosen to wear the pendant.

"Maori seem to be a bit scared because they see this. They can tell my status by the stone. I'm no ordinary Maori. It has been passed down through my family for over 370 years."

Kairau said he spoke to dozens of tourists every day and had never had a complaint.

More than 100 passengers from a recent visiting cruise ship had their photo taken with him, he said.

"I am not doing this for financial interests. It is for cultural [reasons]. However, it is rather lucrative."

Tourists from different countries reacted in different ways.

"Australians are generally sensitive and care about Maori tradition. Americans generally have no idea until I start talking about the history and the culture and you can see they want to learn more," said Kairau.

"Europeans seem to be very interested. Even Pakeha, white New Zealanders, say it is good to see a Maori presence."

He also has brochures offering his services for public speaking, private functions, and business promotions.

One couple visiting from Germany enjoying the sunny day at the waterfront said "it is great seeing a bit of the Maori tradition here.

"He is nice and friendly, very easy to approach."

Tourism Auckland chief executive Graeme Osborne said: "Frankly I believe he is an opportunist.

"He just came out of nowhere and starting doing it. He is not even local iwi. Because he is not an employee of ours we have no control over quality."

Tourism Auckland, with local iwi, organised a Maori welcome for some of the larger cruise ships arriving in Auckland but could not afford one for every visiting ship.

For this there was consultation with local iwi and tight controls to protect cultural integrity and protocol.

Leigh Robins, cruise operations manager at Ports of Auckland, said Kairau was trying to go to a restricted area where the cruise ships arrive.

She said he failed to provide authentic photo identification so was turned away.

Kairau is a former leader of The Republic of New Zealand Party and was also an active campaigner campaigned against the Therapeutics Products and Medicine Bill in 2007.