Ngāi Tahu Tourism take great pride in warmly welcoming our guests to our experiences.
Manaakitanga (hospitality) is the core value that drives the way we do business. Manaakitanga is more than just being an excellent host, it’s also about establishing the responsibilities of the host and implies guardianship of the manuhiri (visitors), whenua (land), taonga (treasures), and tangata (the people).
Ngāi Tahu Tourism own and operate some of the most iconic experiences in New Zealand. These experiences have helped to re-establish the tribes unique and intimate relationship with the whenua (land), awa (water) and kā mauka (mountains) within Te Waipounamu (the South Island).
Through our story-telling based experiences, Dart River Safaris, Hollyford Track and Franz Josef Glacier Guides, Ngāi Tahu Tourism is also able to share one of the tribes most precious treasures – the stories of our traditions.
Tourism allows Ngāi Tahu to host visitors, re-connect with the environment and provide rich experiences for now, and generations to come.
Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri, ā muri ake nei
for us and our children after us.
Nāia te mihi kau, nāia te maioha e rere ana ki a koutou, kai te mihi atu rā.
Greetings and salutations to you all.
Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand (Aotearoa), first arrived in waka unua (double hulled voyaging canoes) from Hawaiki more than 600 years ago.
Māori connections with the land, mountains and water of New Zealand, are steeped in history going right back to the traditional accounts of creation.
The South Island creation account tells of the ancient atua, or demi-god, Aoraki ,who, with his brothers, came down from the heavens following a family dispute in the home of their father, Raki, the Sky Father. They voyaged in Aoraki’s canoe – ‘Te Waka o Aoraki’ to visit their home mother, Papatūānuku, the Earth Mother.
Setting out on their return to the heavens, Aoraki made a mistake in the karakia (incantation) he was reciting and the waka stranded on a reef . Aoraki and his companions became marooned on the high side of the wreck. The wreckage formed the South Island with the Marlborough Sounds being the shattered Tau Ihu (carved prow) and Motupōhue (Bluff Hill) being the sternpost. As time passed Aoraki and his brothers turned to stone, their hair turned white and they became the highest peaks of Kā Tiritiri o Te Moana – the Southern Alps. Aoraki (Mount Cook) is the highest mountain in New Zealand and a great tribal symbol of Ngāi Tahu.
Tū Te Raki Whanoa, the son of Aoraki, came searching and discovered their fate. After mourning his kin he set about reshaping the wreckage of the great waka. It was he who made the island a fit place for people to come to. Singing powerful karakia (incantations), he began attacking the towering rock walls with his adze, Te Hamo, carving out steep cliffs, deep rocky gorges and long waterways. With his assistants, he stocked the coast with fish and clothed the land with forest.
For Māori, these traditions represent the links between the world of the gods and present generations.
Ngāi Tahu are the Māori people of Te Waipounamu. We have our origins in three main streams of migration. The first people to arrive in the southern islands migrating here from Hawaiki, were a people known as Waitaha. They arrived here under the leadership of Rākaihautū and his son, Rokohuia on the waka (canoe) Uruao.
Rākaihautū is credited with creating the great lake system of our island, Te Waipounamu, by striking the ground with his great ko (digging stick) as he explored the inland regions. Rākaihautū and his people explored Te Waipounamu and in tribal traditions, imposed their whakapapa or genealogy on the land. They named the natural features and blessed the land with the spiritual essence of their ancestors.
The plentiful resources of Te Waipounamu called others to abandon their homes in the Te Ika a Māui (North Island) and move southward. This led to the second wave of migration undertaken by the descendants of Whatua Māmoe who came down from the east coast of Te Ika a Māui to claim a place for themselves in the south. These people came to be known as Kāti Māmoe and through intermarriage and conquest these migrants merged with the resident Waitaha and took over authority of Te Waipounamu.
Ngāi Tahu are the third and largest wave of Māori migration to move to the South Island, arriving over two generations from the North Island’s east coast. Ngāi Tahu integrated with the existing South Island people through intermarriage and treaties. They also learned the traditions and customs of these tribes and by the mid eighteenth century the three streams of descent were fused into one iwi or tribe.
Ngāi Tahu means "descendants of Tahu". Tahu Potiki is the tribe’s founding ancestor. It is the fourth largest iwi (tribe) in Aotearoa with more than 50,000 people registered.
Throughout Te Waipounamu there are 18 local rūnanga (tribal councils). An elected representative from each rūnanga makes up Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, the governing body overseeing iwi (tribal) activities.
Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu was established by the Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Act 1996 and ensures the benefits of Crown Settlement are enjoyed by Ngāi Tahu Whānui (tribal members) now and in the future.
The tribe's whakataukī or proverb is
Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei
For us and our children after us.
The investment in tourism has helped Ngāi Tahu
reconnect to areas of significant historical importance.
Queenstown and the surrounding area was traditionally an important mahinga kai or resource area for Ngāi Tahu. It was rich with birds, fish and pounamu or greenstone, an important and valuable stone used to make tools, weapons and to trade with northern tribes. For centuries southern based Ngāi Tahu people would seasonally visit the area to gather these resources and return home to their more permanent coastal settlements. There are many Ngāi Tahu stories and traditions in the area.
However, because there were no permanent Ngāi Tahu settlements, settlers moved in with ease and set up, ignorant to the existing Ngāi Tahu traditions. Also the Crown failed to ensure Ngāi Tahu access to the promised mahinga kai sites, which meant Ngāi Tahu lost its connection to the area.
Today, Ngāi Tahu Tourism own three businesses in the area. This has helped Ngāi Tahu reconnect to the Queenstown area and be a significant contributor to the local community.
The profits from Ngāi Tahu Tourism are used for further investment opportunities and distributed back to the Ngāi Tahu people to support cultural, educational, social and wellbeing initiatives.
Ngāi Tahu Tourism, along with Ngāi Tahu Property and Ngāi Tahu Seafood have contributed to the millions that have been put into tribal development since settlement in 1998.
Much of the investment has been direct to tribal members through Papatipu Rūnanga (local tribal councils), a matched savings programme, education scholarships and grants.
These direct distributions deliver immediate benefit to the people of the tribe. The flagship project Whai Rawa allows tribal members access to a financial saving scheme where tribal members can save for their education, home ownership and retirement through matched savings.
Tribal members also benefit through a series of grants and programmes to support cultural revitalisation and education achievement.
A scholarships is offered by Ngai Tahu Tourism in partnership with Lincoln University, for students of Ngai Tahu descent studying tourism. The scholarship is designed to encourage the pursuit of tertiary qualifications in tourism and build the tribes capacity in the tourism industry.
Scholarships are offered each year and include fees and valuable work experience within the company’s tourism business, mentoring from staff and opportunities to learn about the tribes history.
James Tawa was a recipient of the scholarship and now works for Rainbow Springs one the tribes tourism experiences.
“The scholarship programme allowed me to afford to go to university and learn about Ngāi Tahu at the same time. It opened up opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had.”
We'd love you to join our team!
We strive to be a good employer, providing equal opportunities, a safe and healthy working environment and the encouragement to become part of a successful enterprise. Watch the video too see what our staff have to say about working at Ngāi Tahu Tourism.
Haere mai, if you're Ngāi Tahu we want you!
The commercial aspirations of Ngāi Tahu Holding Corporation coupled with Te Rūnanga Group's role as an inter-generational steward of the tribe's assets led to the development of this programme. Matakahi Scholarships create opportunities to grow our Ngāi Tahu capacity now and for the future.
Established in 2009, the scholarships are for Ngāi Tahu students studying a commercially focused tertiary qualification and is designed to provide scholars with a broad range of learning experiences, challenges and opportunities within the Te Rūnanga Group and it's key partners.
To apply you need to be:
We are delighted to be launching a brand new scholarship for Ngāi Tahu students.
This scholarship is an opportunity for Ngāi Tahu students who are studying towards a tourism qualification. We are looking for future stars who love the tourism industry and want to make their mark. We will be offering support with study fees, the chance for paid holiday work and invaluable work experience plus amazing opportunities to grow your cultural skills and learn more about your iwi.
The tourism industry is one of the most dynamic and fastest growing industry sectors and one of New Zealand’s top economic earners. Ngāi Tahu Tourism owns and operates some of the most iconic experiences in Aotearoa - from the thrills of the Shotover Jet to the tranquillity of the Hollyford Valley. You will have heard of our attractions even if you didn’t know they were owned by Ngāi Tahu Tourism.
Scholarship applications are now open!! We will be keeping this page updated with progress and key dates. If this sounds like an opportunity for you or someone you know then please register your interest here.
Terms and conditions will apply:
Ngāi Tahu Tourism
15 Show Place,
PO Box 3075,