Getting to know one of our Māori operators

Published: 21 February 2017
Filed under: Māori Tourism, Tourism industry

This is a chance to get to know one of our Māori operators and their business just a little better. Marama Beamish hails from Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki and is currently working as a Kaiarahi (guide) for Te Haerenga. Thanks for your time Marama!


1. How long has Te Haerenga been working for?

On Wednesday the 5th of November, 2014, the Minister of Conservation, the Honourable Maggie Barry, officially announced the arrival and birth of ‘Te Haerenga’ at the Cloud Convention Centre, on Auckland’s waterfront, as part of the Department of Conservation’s launch of Conservation Week.

On Friday the 14th of November 2014, Te Haerenga were extremely honoured to host our first formal public visitors, the New Zealand Prime Minister at the time, John Key, and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. They were greeted with a traditional welcome by members of the Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki tribe as they arrived on Motutapu Island. As the guest of honour, Angela Merkel was chosen to release a Spotted Brown Kiwi named Whauwhau. This was the 19th wildlife relocation of its type on the island.


2. What were you doing before Te Haerenga?

I was studying documentary filmmaking and spatial design, at Te Kura Toi Whakaari o Aotearoa: The New Zealand Drama School.


3. Why did you get into tourism?

Te Haerenga was developed by our iwi leadership in response to our recent Treaty settlement with the Crown. It was acknowledged that ancestors of Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki are the first known occupants of Motutapu Island and the adjacent Rangitoto Island, as a fishing and bird-snaring ground.

The Te Haerenga logo is a footprint, representing the footprints of a woman and child that were captured in the ash layer during the last eruption 600+ years ago. The footprints were discovered by archaeologists on Motutapu in the early 1900s, and date back to a time when our ancestors were living there. Thinking of our tīpuna, and the many stories that have been passed down to us as an iwi about our relationship to these islands, is what makes me passionate about reclaiming our duty to host visitors coming to Auckland, in the way that our ancestors did, only now in a contemporary context.


4. In one sentence how would you describe Te Haerenga’s point of difference?

I would say that what makes Te Haerenga a unique brand, is that our role is first and foremost to be kaitiaki (or ‘carers’) of these islands, to leave them even better than we found them in our lifetimes, and to create a brighter future for the next generations. Tourism is a big part of that answer for us, and in that sense there is a real longevity to our vision.


5. What do clients enjoy most about your tour?

Many of the people I have guided up to the 260m summit have a desire to further understand what it means to be indigenous to this land, and want to know how we connect to these islands. As we are walking, I weave together a korero (discussion) that aims to enlighten their sense of how we identify as Māori and the ways that our world-view helps us to connect meaningfully with both our physical environment and to each other as people. A real highlight for them is interacting with the birdlife too, the many species such as the tīeke (saddleback) that are thriving in a pest free environment, singing away in the pōhutukawa branches just metres from their face. When they get to the top and look out at the incredible 360° view, our guests are starting to see Auckland through our eyes, almost as though at the centerpoint of a compass, surrounded by countless islands, headlands and volcanic cones that all act as markers to unlock stories about the lives of so many of our ancestors, and events of huge historical significance. People come away feeling rejuvenated and refreshed by the cultural perspective they have received and by the tranquillity of the natural landscapes.


6. Who are your clients?

We have a majority of international tourists make bookings with us, many from Canada, the UK, US, Germany, France, Australia, China and Japan. People come to us because they want to stretch their legs, and their minds, in a beautiful natural environment, experienced through the generosity and care of a local Ngāi Tai Kaiarahi (guide).


7. What are your aspirations for Te Haerenga?

I am discovering more and more about what Te Haerenga makes possible for the likes of myself and future generations. I am being taught by our manuhiri (visitors), just as much as they are learning from me. We aspire to reach a genuine level of exchange with each and every one of our guests, and often that occurs in ways that exceed even my expectations. Today for instance, I was guiding a couple from Vancouver, of Scottish and Hungarian descent, both working in social development sectors in Canada, and both who are huge advocates for the indigenous people of their region. As we walked, our conversations grew richer and richer, and over the course of five hours, all three of us had a palpable sense of our global citizenship and of the power each and every one of us have to, ‘be the change you want to see in the world’. There is a significant gift presented to us by the era of social media and internet literacy, in that we can so easily connect across countries and continents to draw strength from each other’s ideas, achievements and aspirations.

My aspiration for Te Haerenga, and the role of tourism for our iwi, is that tour-guiding acts as a training ground to build strong future leaders, with courageous visions, backed up by their experiences and exchanges with all the many people of the world they have had the pleasure of meeting and learning from.


8. What’s one interesting thing we might not know about you?

Hmmm, you might not know that I live with my whānau on our papakāinga at Maraetai, our tribal base in terms of where our marae is located to this day. I’m really a pā kid at heart. I like making meals with my Mum from the garden and feeding the scraps to our chickens. We have a lot of people come through the marae that we care for by cooking food and setting up beds. I think that’s why tour-guiding comes reasonably easily, hosting people on the islands is an extension of what we have been raised to do. Also, I just have a lot of love for people!


9. Do you have anything else to share?

That’s heaps! If you’ve read all of that and want to know more, get in touch with us so we can host you on Motutapu and Rangitoto too. Ngā mihi nui, Marama (Tour-Guide at Te Haerenga).