In Tauranga they don’t turn frogs into handsome princes – they turn them into make-believe Maori

Alf wonders if it’s racially and/or culturally offensive for a Maori to accuse other Maori of being lazy.

He poses the question after reading the highly entertaining story in the HoS this morning about the tour operator who has been using fake Maori to attract tourists from cruise ships docking in Tauranga.

Discovery Heritage Group has been banned from Port of Tauranga land after rival companies complained it hired foreign workers to wear traditional Maori dress.

Company director Terina Puriri said she employed a range of nationalities, including French and Israelis, because local Maori were not willing to promote their heritage.

“Some of our Maori are too slack to promote themselves. Some of our Maori are too lazy to get out of bed to do that.

“They don’t turn up and it’s a known thing for Tauranga Maori to do that.”

On the other hand, her multinational team has learnt Maori customs and some Te Reo, and – we are told – has helped build a Maori village on the outskirts of Tauranga.

“None of my team are backpackers or full-blood Maori. But the tourists love us purely because we are proud of our culture and we look beautiful.”


Not with bloody tatoos over their faces, surely.

There is a real possibility, of course, that this Puriri woman is a bogus Maori too.

But she has Maori, German and English ancestry, the HoS story says.

Not surprising. Most Maori nowadays have mixed blood.

And if she is the real McCoy – or Mikoi – then it will be fascinating to see how the Race Relations Commission deals with the complaints that are bound to flow its way.

So what has gone wrong?

The company, which had contracts with some cruise ships to provide cultural liaison and perform on board, was asked to keep off port land before Christmas. Employees must now wait for potential customers outside the gates.

“We have a big problem with Tauranga port because they don’t want culture on their port,” Puriri said.

“We’re trying hard to do something positive in the community.”

Exactly why a port would want “culture” is a mystery to Alf. What it wants is brisk business – cargoes and passengers.

Oh, and it wants security.

Port of Tauranga commercial manager Graeme Marshall said the group was removed because of a security breach. “The representation of who came through the gate into the port did not match up with their identification.”

But, even with the correct paperwork, the group may not be allowed back.

“The other issues … to be taken into account would be the authenticity of what they’re representing,” said Marshall, who feared the port could receive “international condemnation” if non-Maori were representing Maori culture.

Frankly, Alf suspects the rest of the world for the most part doesn’t give a toss about non-Maori representing Maori culture.

But then there are those remarks about local Maori being reluctant to promote their culture. Yep. They have needled at least one local Maori.

Local kaumatua Iria Whiu, from Ngati Ranginui and Ngai te Rangi, was outraged, saying Puriri’s comments were “highly insulting”.

Using non-Maori posing as Maori was an insult to Maori nationwide, he said.

An insult, maybe. But is it true that the locals can’t be bothered with this sort of carry-on?

Oh, and let’s not forget the local tourism bureaucrats getting in on the story.

Tourism Bay of Plenty general manager Tim Burgess commended the port’s stance.

“There’s a cultural issue at the heart of it … presenting international visitors Maori culture when the people aren’t actually Maori is not really the best look.”

The HoS only last week was telling us about Aucklander John Kairau, who has been charging tourists $5 to have their photo taken with a “Maori in traditional dress” using their own camera.

Kairau has a moko scrawled on his face with marker pen. He was moved off Princes Wharf after Tourism Auckland asked him to leave.

The fake moko certainly did nothing to improve his looks.

But if tourists are daft enough to pay $5 to be photographed with a bloke who has sullied his face with squiggly lines and gets a buzz from poking his tongue out, well, it takes all sorts.

As American showman P.T.Barnum is said to have observed many years ago, there’s a sucker born every minute.

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