Kia Ora

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.

Our Experiences

Our Origins

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.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi

The Treaty of Waitangi

The Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand's founding document, which was first signed on 6 February, 1840. The Treaty is an agreement, with versions in Māori and English, between the British Crown and around 540 Māori rangatira (chiefs). In return for British sovereignty or kawanatanga the chiefs were guaranteed their autonomous control of their lands, forests and fisheries or tino rangatiratanga together with their ‘treasures’ taonga.

The Treaty was signed in Te Waipounamu (the South Island) at four different locations, three of which were within the Ngāi Tahu takiwā (territory). As a result of the signings at Akaroa, Ruapuke Island and Ōtākou, Ngāi Tahu became a party to the Treaty of Waitangi. It was a treaty of cession, transferring Ngāi Tahu sovereignty to the Crown in return for important guarantees.

Between 1848 and 1864 Ngāi Tahu entered into a series of land sales to the Crown, but as early as 1849 the Crown defaulting on the agreements. Relationships between Ngāi Tahu and the Crown became progressively more difficult and deep suspicions of the Crown's good faith by some Ngāi Tāhu chiefs were confirmed. The Ngāi Tahu Claim, 'Te Kerēme', was born.

The Crown had failed to set aside the adequate reserves they had promised to Ngāi Tahu, which was 10 per cent of the 34.5 million acres they were sold. There were also disputes over boundaries, and the Crown's failure to establish the promised schools and hospitals. In addition, the tribe lost its access to its mahinga kai, or food gathering resources, and other sacred places. Robbed of the opportunity to participate in the land-based economy alongside the settlers, Ngāi Tahu became an impoverished and virtually landless tribe.

Generations later, the Ngāi Tahu claim against the crown, 'Wai 27', prompted an extensive inquiry over 3½ years. It involved 23 hearings, 900 submissions, 262 witnesses and 25 corporate bodies.

In the Ngāi Tahu settlement of 1998, our tribe received cultural redress in the form of confirmation of the ability for Ngāi Tahu to express its traditional kaitiaki or guardianship relationship with the environment, tribal redress, an apology from the Crown, acknowledgement of the role of Aoraki (Mt Cook) and economic redress in the form of a payment of $170 million and the ability to purchase property from the Crown.

This financial acknowledgement has allowed the tribe economically and culturally re-establish itself. Today, Ngāi Tahu has interests in fishing, tourism, property as well as a diversified equities portfolio, all of which are managed through Ngāi Tahu Holdings Ltd, parent company of Ngāi Tahu Tourism.

About 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 Ngāi Tahu Tourism in partnership with Lincoln University, for students of Ngāi 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 of the tribe’s 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.”

By the Numbers

9 Businesses
55,000 Family Members
950,000 Customers
350 Staff

Our Board

Extensive governance experience in both the private and public sectors. Has held key financial and business development roles in a variety of businesses in New York and New Zealand. Current roles Director CCHL, EcoCentral, SLI Systems, Wherescape Software and Lion Foundation.

Sarah Smith


Previously CEO of Te Rūnanga o Ngā Tahu. Director of the Māori Television Service and Environmental Science and Research. Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu elected representative on the Ngāi Tahu Fund Committee.

Tahu Pōtiki


Stuart McLauchlan is a Fellow of the NZ Institute of Chartered Accountants, a Chartered Fellow, past president of the Institute of Directors and Pro-Chancellor at the University of Otago. He is Chairman of Scott Technology Ltd, PHARMAC, UDC Finance Ltd and Dunedin International Airport.

Stuart McLauchlan


Director and COO of software platform Shuttlerock, Chair of Black Cat Cruises and a Director of Air New Zealand. Background includes senior marketing roles at Tourism Holdings and Air New Zealand, director at Tourism NZ and Chair of Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism.

Paul Bingham


Career largely in tourism, hospitality & education. Established the International Antarctic Centre in the early 90s. Previously CE of Real Journeys. Currently CE of the University of Canterbury Students’ Association, Director of UBS Canterbury, Chair of Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism.

Dave Hawkey


Meg Matthews

Associate Governor

Work with Us

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.

View our current opportunities and register for job alerts >>

Matakahi Scholarship

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:

  • Registered with Ngāi Tahu
  • Be entering your first or second year of a relevant tertiary qualification
  • Studying commerce, business, finance, law, accounting, property, valuation, marketing or management.

Find out about our Matakahi Scholarships >>

Tourism Scholarship -

Te Pia Tāpoi

Applications for the 2017 scholarship have now closed. To find out about scholarship opportunities in 2018, please check back here in May 2017.

A word from our staff

  • "Absolutely loved every moment."

    Matt Crannitch - Shotover Jet.

  • "The Ngāi Tahu whānau is really good
    and exciting to be part of."

    Shirley Henderson - Agrodome.

  • "Ngāi Tahu gives you a range
    of opportunities."

    Jeff Dunne - Glacier Hot Pools.

  • "It’s a good whānau environment."

    Māui Riley - Rainbow Springs.

  • "It’s a phenomenal job."

    Claire Travers - Rainbow Springs Kiwi Encounter.

  • "...and I love it!"

    Paul - Dart River Jet


View our available trade collateral for download.
If you would like to partner with us contact

Contact Us

Ngāi Tahu Tourism
15 Show Place,
PO Box 3075,
Christchurch, 8024
New Zealand

Christchurch, New Zealand
+64 (03) 371 2614
Your Message Has Been Sent! Thank you for contacting us.