Travelling time with Ngai Tahu

Maori Culture Cruise directors Wayne Perkins (second from left) and Warren Skerrett, with guides Joe Cowie and Liz Davis. Photo supplied.
Maori Culture Cruise directors Wayne Perkins (second from left) and Warren Skerrett, with guides Joe Cowie and Liz Davis. Photo supplied.

More than 500 years of early Wakatipu Maori history is brought to life in a new tourism venture devised by Queenstown residents.

Billed as the first of its kind in southern New Zealand, Maori Culture Cruises is a joint venture between financial planner Warren Skerrett, wife Alyssandra and Million Dollar Cruise owners Wayne and Betty Perkins.

The 75-minute choreographed cultural experience is a journey back in time, experiencing largely unknown sites of Maori cultural significance and the legends of landmarks around the lake.

Passengers are ''called'' on board the southern Mississippi-style river boat Ngaroto, formerly named Million Dollar 1, using a conch shell in a formal mihi whakatau, or welcome.

They are then fully immersed in a journey back in time led by Queenstown guides of Ngai Tahu descent Liz Davis and Joe Cowie, wearing full traditional costume, featuring korowai, piupiu and heitiki.

Captain Perkins dresses in European period costume, sporting a Napoleonic musket and an axe.

The concept has the full backing of Kai Tahu, the southern collective of Ngai Tahu.

''Few people know why Maori came here, why they lived here and why they left,'' Southern kaumatua Michael Skerrett said.

''This is not a poi or kapa haka show.

''My biggest underlying desire is to ensure there is some true Ngai Tahu representation in Queenstown, this country's greatest gateway for international visitors.''

Cultural adviser Sir Tipene O'Regan said more overseas visitors wanted to discover and experience the heritage of the places they visited.

''It's always been a trend that's been ignored by New Zealand tourism. Queenstown and the Wakatipu area are not just for exercising adrenaline,'' Sir Tipene said.

''This trip is directly related to the traditions and history of the place, whereas most tourism activities tend to be generic and tell a macro-ethnic story.

''People will be attracted to this, because it's different from the recognised elements and rituals of encounter that all New Zealanders take.

''This content is an essential, component of the New Zealand brand. Even Kiwis are starting to be drawn to it now.''