Maurice Manawatu (Māori Tours Kaikōura)

Maurice (Ngāti Kurī) and wife Heather balance lots of values in running their successful business and interesting life.

Offering land-based eco-cultural tourism in and around the Kaikōura region, Māori Tours Kaikōura was established in 2001. Maurice’s upbringing in Kaikōura and early work experiences, such as having to talk to a 1,000 people at Parihaka as an 18 year old, and guiding the Te Māori exhibition, provided the perfect background for the creation of the business.

13 years later Māori Tours Kaikōura continues to be a popular attraction. Feedback from guests who have been on the tours back that up, and Christmas cards still arrive from guests who went on the very first tours. The feedback from guests keeps Heather and Maurice focused and energised reminding them that Maori Tours Kaikōura has, and is, making a difference in people’s lives.

It’s not only the guests who experience this difference; Māori Tours Kaikōura is a whānau friendly  business.  When a staff member joins, their whole whānau become part of the wider whānau. In practical terms this means that when staff are at work there is always someone to look after them. Whānau members also become immersed in eco-cultural tourism and learn about the business so that they can help out in the future if needed.  The whānau approach to business also embraces all ages. The youngest guide is five years old, and Heather and Maurice’s 7 year old mokopuna, has learnt to do the bushwalk tour.

Heather and Maurice take the time to manaaki staff and ensure they understand the importance of using their wages well.  As Heather explains,

“ We help them understand why it’s good to live within their means , to plan for what they want, and to think carefully about how they spend their money. If we look after our staff and help them look after themselves, we all benefit. In the end it’s all about making it easier for people to find the right pathway for themselves, and to progress along that chosen pathway.  For those that are lucky enough to be Ngāi Tahu then we make sure they know about the benefits of Whai Rawa.”

Heather and Maurice are also looking at adding to the benefits Whai Rawa provides by paying staff more if they are contributing to Whai Rawa somewhat like KiwiSaver employer contributions. As Heather explains “If they agree, we can pay their contribution directly to Whai Rawa. It’s easy for us and them.  It’s also good for them to be thinking about whether they might want to do some study or a trade at some time and about owning their own whare.”

Meanwhile the business continues to develop and a new website will showcase the Group Tours as well as facilitate online sales. Half of the business comes from the educational sector and new developments are designed to reinforce that relationship. The balance between traditional business and the unique values associated with a Māori business are real. It is a careful balancing act and management of that aspect has bought the business to its current level. Decision making is based upon traditional values and when apparent conflicts arise, negotiation and consensus are used to find a way forward. These traditional Māori values work well.

Following your values can sometimes be difficult, at least in the short term. Some time back a group of 20 overseas travel agents were due to have a familiarisation tour with Maurice and Heather however the passing of a whānau member the day before meant the tour had to be cancelled.  .  While the cancellation was inconvenient for the agents, they  understood and respected the tikanga behind the decision and today, and many of these travel agents do business with Māori Tours Kaikōura. As Heather says, “If we do the right things, then the right things happen.”