An internationally-famous tourism business in Rotorua is a step closer to iwi ownership after the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute Vesting Bill had its first reading in Parliament today.

Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta said it was a significant step in the journey towards iwi ownership.

"The journey began 10 years ago between the Crown and Ngāti Whakaue, Tūhourangi and Ngāti Wahiao.

"Te Puia has helped change the way Māori arts and crafts are viewed and this has had far-reaching implications for our tourism and trading markets. It has also had an impact on the way Aotearoa is seen internationally," she said.

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Te Puia is currently a body corporate owned by the Crown.

Founded in 1926 by Āpirana Ngata, the Māori Arts and Crafts school focused on keeping teaching traditional Māori arts and crafts.

The Rotorua Māori Arts and Crafts Institute Act of 1963 founded the school as a legal entity and, when the act was amended in 1967, it changed from a local to a national institute.

"I acknowledge the efforts of the current board, management and staff of Te Puia for their passion, hard work and commitment to make Te Puia the valuable asset it is today. This was always the vision and aspiration of Maori politician, Sir Apirana Ngata."

Mahuta said Te Puia had been at the heart of promoting our culture and identity on the international stage.