A giant of Hawaii's indigenous tourism industry has visited Rotorua, meeting iwi leaders to discuss how to share, learn and collaborate on tourism and agribusiness ventures.

John Morgan is president of Kualoa, a 1618ha private nature reserve and working cattle ranch on the island of Oahu.

It is one of the world's most famous private nature reserves where movies such as Jurassic Park, Godzilla and Jumanji were filmed.

Kualoa attracts half a million visitors a year and is sacred to ancient Hawaiians, having once been home to royalty.


Morgan is the seventh generation of his family to own and care for the land and he visited Rotorua last week to grow connections and experience a marae stay before building a similar facility at Kualoa.

It will be the first of its kind to be built on the property in more than 400 years.

Morgan has a special connection with New Zealand.

His own ancestor was from the Tainui tribe and left Aotearoa in 1906 to live and settle in Hawaii. One of his daughters married a New Zealander.

On Wednesday he met with Ngati Whakaue leaders who within the next year will assume joint ownership, with Wahiao Tuhourangi, of Te Puia and the home of the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute in settlement with the Crown.

Ngati Whakaue Assets Trust chairwoman Katie Paul said sitting down with Morgan had been a valuable mentoring opportunity and a chance to discuss ways the two land custodians could learn from each other.

"He has inherited the ancestral land of Hawaiian chiefs and runs some magnificent tourism attractions that cater to lots of markets," Paul said.

"He's always looking at different ways to create experiences that pay homage to the Hawaiian culture.

"We're on the same journey and at the heart of it is our culture and the acknowledgement these are the lands we've inherited and will pass on to the next generation.

"We're looking forward to sharing ideas on how we can grow our assets and learn together as indigenous peoples. Who knows what ideas and possibilities might come out of these discussions? I think there will be lots of things we can do to innovate and rejuvenate our resources and I'm keen to hear about his experiences as a kaitiaki of his land."

Workers at Kualoa private nature reserve on the island of Oahu. Photo/Supplied
Workers at Kualoa private nature reserve on the island of Oahu. Photo/Supplied

Morgan also spent time with Te Puia chief executive Tim Cossar and experienced a full tour and concert at the venue before having lunch.

He was given a tour of the city including Rotorua's Lakefront, Whakarewarewa Forest, the Government Gardens, the Skyline gondola at Ngongotaha and Hells Gate Spa before his overnight stay on Te Takinga marae at Lake Rotoiti.

On Thursday Morgan held a Q&A session for invited guests, including Maori tourism operators and those with an interest in agribusiness.

Morgan said he enjoyed experiencing the unique and authentic Maori culture first-hand.

"On Kualoa we try to be role models and stewards of the land by preserving, protecting and enhancing the natural beauty and culture. The key is to develop recreational and agricultural enterprises which are compatible with the environment, so in respect to Maori land owners and tourism operators, I think we share many of the same goals.

"I, too, will be looking for new ideas and fresh inspiration from my time here in Rotorua."