Rotorua and the Maori

Rotorua ( on a lake on New Zealand's North Island. As well as being renowned for its geothermal activity, it is also a major centre for sustaining and developing Maori culture. A short walk from our hotel beside the lake was a fascinating park, called Government park which had once housed the district governor, but now displays modern Maori carvings alongside an old colonial spa which houses a museum and the town bowls club.



A little further round the lake shore passed the Marina we found a village church near a Marae, or tribal communal building, where local Maoris gathered. The church contained some interesting examples of cross-cultural collaborations, including beautiful Maori carvings, a fascinating window of Christ as a Maori chief walking on the water - Rotorua lake can be seen through the window, and held services in English and Maori. 

Te Puia - the Maori centre


Just outside Rotorua is Te Puia in the Whakarewarewa Valley (

As well as being an amazing thermal park, it is home to a living Maori village and the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, with traditional wood carving and weaving schools. As well as presenting a beautifully carved Marae or Maori meeting house, the workshops exhibited beautiful wood carvings, some of which were still being created when we visited, and traditional weaving techniques. It helped us to make sense of modern Maori craft work around the town.


One evening at this village we went to a tradtional Hangi feast (for tourists). Before the feast we saw Maori rituals of greeting outside the Marae, or tribal hall, for the particular group of Maori who live nearby, either in the model traditional village or in modern houses just down the road from the thermal park. The feast was cooked in a ground oven powered by volcanic heat and offered a wide range of starters, a beautiful range of meats and some lovely desserts. The feast was followed by a concert of Maori singing 

Te Wairoa  



The explosion of Mount Tarawera buried Te Wairoa ( but the remains of the village can be reached by a pleasant drive through coniferous forest past a couple of smaller lakes just south of Rotorua. The site now houses a museum in which are records of life in the village and stories of the heroism of the Maori and white settlers in trying to rescue people after the explosion. The remains of some houses can still be seen in the grounds of the museum which has a nice walking track for visitors from which lake Tarawera can be seen.  Contemporary newspaper reports and Maori records, show the great efforts the Maori made to rescue Maori and pakeha (white people) from the disaster.