By KELLY BLANCHARD in Rotorua
After more than 40 years of being known as The New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, the Rotorua tourist attraction has changed its name to Te Puia.
The new brand was launched in front of about 100 people in Rotorua yesterday.
Te Puia, meaning "geyser" or "geothermal", is the name of the hill behind Pohutu geyser, the major geyser on the grounds of the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley.
Te Puia chief executive Andrew Te Whaiti said a name change was needed to make the area more marketable.
Mr Te Whaiti said that in the past visitors thought the institute only offered Maori arts and crafts. He said it would often come as a surprise to them that there were also geothermal attractions and a kiwi house.
The old name also had negative connotations, particularly in the United Kingdom and European markets, and with the name change it was hoped to increase visitors from those areas.
"We have had comments like 'We are on holiday, why do we want to go to an institute?'," Mr Te Whaiti said.
Te Puia will become the umbrella name for the three difference experiences. Mr Te Whaiti said the New Zealand Maori Arts And Crafts Institute name had not been completely lost because it was now one of the three sub-brands, along with the other two-sub brands, Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley and Maori Cultural Experience.
Darrell Carlin, from the Carlin Valenti public relations company, said Te Puia had been tested extensively to make sure people from overseas could pronounce it and that it did not have negative connotations in other languages. It is a name already in use in New Zealand, but people at Te Puia Springs, 100km north of Gisborne, appeared unaware of the new name.
One member of the community, who did not want to be named, said she was not aware of any consultation with locals by those who had renamed the Rotorua institute.
Although she felt some in the community of about 200 people might be upset, she said most would not care.
She said although Te Puia Springs had some geothermal activity, she did not think overseas tourists would get confused between the two because Te Puia Springs did not have the number of geothermal sights that Rotorua did.
Graham Pye, from Te Puia Native Plant and Nursery in the Coromandel Peninsula, was also not worried about the institute's new name.
"As long as it's not called Te Puia Native Plant and Nursery, I don't have a problem with it."
The new name will be launched in the next three weeks in Australia, the US, England, Europe and Japan.
Meanwhile, Te Puia in Rotorua is about to undergo a major redevelopment. The multimillion-dollar plans include an enlarged working space for the carving and weaving schools, a new exhibition gallery, a restaurant and viewing platforms.
A new nature walk at Te Puia was also officially opened yesterday. The walk, Korero Tuku Iho, has been designed to share the stories of Te Puia and the history of the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley.
The section of the trail opened yesterday is a third of the length of what will eventually be a two-hour nature walk.
Tourism New Zealand staff and Tourism Minister Mark Burton were to be at yesterday's opening but were unable to make it because Wellington airport was closed by fog.
By KELLY BLANCHARD in Rotorua