Background Information

Maori culture history

Māori ancestors travelled from Hawaiki to New Zealand more than 700 years ago. Landing on the shores of the North Island, the Te Arawa tribe made the Bay of Plenty their home and have remained since.

Māori did not have a written language before Europeans arrived to New Zealand, and instead used carving, weaving and kapa haka (performing arts) to record their history and korero (stories). These stories are still told today and help to keep the Māori culture, values and arts alive.

Te Puia history

The tourism legacy of Te Whakarewarewa valley with began almost 200 years ago with the Ngati Wahiao people of Te Whakarewarewa Valley playing host to the country’s first visitors as they travelled to the eighth wonder of the world, the Pink and White Terraces. Visitors were drawn to the soothing, geothermal waters of the Valley, the hospitality and knowledge of the people.

Following the devastation of the Mt Tarawera eruption, in 1886, the Tuhourangi people joined those in the valley and the fledging tourism operation in the valley gained strength, creating and cementing the guiding philosophy of manaakitanga (hosting) the legacy upheld to this day.
The guides of Te Whakarewarewa Valley are affectionately known worldwide, with many growing up in the Valley amongst the hot pools and geysers and receiving the mantle handed on to them by their guiding ancestors.

NZMACI history

Since our ancestors first arrived on New Zealand shores, our history and kōrero (beliefs and stories) were carved and woven into patterns, forms and symbols bound together by whakapapa (relationships) supporting Māori language, values and knowledge.

With colonisation, this knowledge became increasingly threatened, particularly by the Tohunga Suppression Act of 1907. This effectively inhibited the activities of our Tohunga (experts, leaders, healers or priests) who were generally the holders of Māori knowledge, with many refusing to pass on their wisdom as a result.

Renowned Māori leader, Sir Apirana Ngata, recognised that Māori material culture, such as carving, was integral to preserving mātauranga-a-iwi (tribal knowledge and identity) particularly through marae, the epicentre of tribal history, society and identity. His dream was to establish centres of learning to maintain, perpetuate and preserve these traditional practices for future generations.

He saw the passing of legislation in Parliament in 1926, bringing his vision to fruition with the first carving school, Te Ao Marama, opened on the shores of Lake Rotorua.

Te Puia | NZMACI

The growth of both the carving school and Te Whakarewarewa Valley’s tourism interests led to a joining of the two in 1963 under the Rotorua Māori Arts and Crafts Institute Act. The Act founded the school as a legal entity, while a 1967 Amendment recognised it as a National Institute and established the unique co-existing framework that remains today.

The organisation continued to grow and evolve in the following decades, with the addition of Te Rito (Weaving School) and Te Takapū o Rotowhio (Greenstone and Bone Carving School), and visitor numbers increasing by tens of thousands every year; all drawn to the unique combination of geothermal wonder, and Māori art and culture.

In 2005, the organisation took on a new trading name, stepping away from The New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, or MACI as it was affectionately known, and taking on the name Te Puia (meaning gushing waters and steaming vents). Te Puia also refers to an historic pā site within Te Whakarewarewa Valley.

In 2011, a specific cultural strategy was developed. The process included revisiting the original legislation in terms of its cultural objectives and purpose and re-examining the significance, relevance and potential of the Act in today’s world.

The resulting NZMACI strategy reaffirmed Sir Apirana Ngata’s beliefs that Māori art and craft, and supporting knowledge and disciplines, are the pillars of Māori tribal culture and identity. Sir Apirana’s dream to establish centres of learning to maintain, perpetuate and preserve these traditional practices for future generations were found to be as important today as ever.

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Our Values

The values of manaakitanga (hospitality) and kaitiakitanga (guardianship) underpin everything that we do at Te Puia | NZMACI. Our world-famous guiding tradition shows our regard for treating visitors with respect and making them part of our whānau (family). Our commitment to kaitiakitanga means that we will protect the rich natural and cultural taonga (treasures) at Te Puia and ensure that they thrive for generations to come.


With numerous natural hazards including geysers, hot mud pools and boiling water pools, Te Puia’s geothermal area presents many hazards. Therefore, the health and safety of our manuhiri and staff is our top priority, and we aim for a zero serious harm injury rate. Te Puia | NZMACI has a full-time Health and Safety Coordinator, whose responsibility is to coordinate all Health and Safety initiatives. They work in close collaboration with a site-wide Health and Safety Committee.

We encourage all manuhiri to wear suitable footwear and have invested extensively in cobbled pathways to safely guide visitors through the geothermal valley. There is also a significant investment in fencing to ensure manuhiri do not venture into potentially unsafe zones. We provide wheelchair access wherever possible, though some steeper and unsealed or un-cobbled paths are not wheelchair accessible.