Whanganui River Māori are considering a new Māori tourism signage project to help visitors discover cultural heritage, historic stories and natural features along the river.
The initiative is part of a rebranding project for a Whanganui River Road tourism route.
Headed by the Whanganui Māori Regional Tourism Organisation with the support of the Whanganui District Council's economic development agency Whanganui and Partners, the project aims to install interpretive signage along the river from Taumarunui to the North Mole in Whanganui.
Signage will be co-designed with hapū and iwi and could be information boards or pou that tell the story of a particular hapū or site to help visitors understand the significance of places, people and geological processes.
Whanganui Māori Regional Tourism Organisation secretary Soraya Peke-Mason said potential designs were already on the table at some marae, ready to be discussed.
"The Whanganui River Road tourism route project is an opportunity for our hapū on the awa and in the rohe to tell their stories that they are comfortable with sharing with visitors. It's a bit more than just that, too. It is about the protection and the preserving of them in a way that they can be passed on to the next generations.
"It's also an opportunity for hapū to inform visitors – naming the whenua that they are standing on, telling them a little bit about the community that they are visiting, and letting them know what they can and can't do on that whenua or in that place."
Peke-Mason said it was hoped signs and pou would start going up this year in some areas while engagement with hapū in other areas would continue.
Whanganui Māori Regional Tourism Organisation chair Hayden Potaka said the story of Whanganui River Māori was not currently visible or easily accessible for visitors interested in the history of the river and its people.
"One of the things quite obvious for visitors to Whanganui is that there's very little showing that Māori are here, very little within any context of art, features, stories," Potaka said.
"Telling our story and depicting who we are as a people was a key feature of this project and our people have been responsive in terms of engaging with it and sharing narrative."
Potaka said the signage project was being funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Strategic Tourism Asset Project, with the involvement of Whanganui District Council, Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui, ngā rūnanga o Tūpoho and Tamaūpoko, and others.