Illumination of the Pohutu Geyser Terrace, Rotorua

  • Mark Burton

Kia Ora and good evening Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you Ben for that kind introduction and thank you, on behalf of myself and Carol, to the members and staff of the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, for what has been an enjoyable and pleasant evening thus far.

We have now come to the focus of the evening, the official lighting of the Pohutu Geyser and the spectacular sinter terraces.

I think it is appropriate that I start by acknowledging that it was my predecessor as Minister of Tourism, the Hon Lockwood Smith, who approved a significant grant to facilitate the permanent lighting of the geyser and terraces. This was part of the millennium celebrations, and for the ongoing benefit of visitors to the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley.

Some ideas are able to attract universal support. Assisting the Institute to permanently light this icon of New Zealand tourism is one such idea. I am pleased that as Minister of Tourism, I am now able to play a part in this important event.

Most of you assembled here this evening hold a great deal of knowledge about the significance and history of this area, its natural features and its place in our culture.

Many, many more New Zealanders – and overseas visitors – have witnessed the magnificence of Pohutu, and the other features of the Valley. I understand that it has been observed, photographed and studied as a unique geothermal feature since 1850.

I know that it is a favourite holiday visit for kiwi families. It has featured in advertising and promotional material of local and national tourism bodies for years. And of course it holds special significance for local Maori - for generations it has been central to your way of life.

The particular combination of geothermal wonders and Maori culture make this place a very special attraction and an icon in New Zealand tourism.

The recognition that Government gives to this special place is shown in its protection by statute as a Crown reserve since 1963.
And relatively recently, in 1987 in fact, the decline of Pohutu resulted in local geothermal users being restricted from taking energy from the surrounding field.

I know that at the time, and probably still in some quarters, this was a controversial move. But the current remarkable record of 269 consecutive days of activity by Pohutu - and the national and international attention that this brought - has undoubtedly been a boost for Whakarewarewa as a tourist icon.

But further than the headlines made by the length of the current geothermal performance, the underlying story is the one that I think gives us the greatest benefit as a country and as an industry.

It shows that we don’t only talk "clean and green", we can walk it as well. And this story shows that New Zealand is prepared to go that extra distance to try to live up to our 100% Pure brand and our clean and green image.
This is my view will continue to be one of our most important challenges in the ongoing development of sustainable tourism.

With the future of the geyser seemingly assured, we are now able to consider its sustainable use as a tourism attraction. The newly installed lighting that we see here, which will allow evening viewing, is one way to extend the opportunities for our international and our domestic visitors to visit and enjoy Pohutu.

This is a good example of a pragmatic approach to both extending the product that is made available to our visitors, and to managing the pressure brought about by increasing numbers of visitors at some of our leading attractions.

By extending the hours of operation, there is the opportunity to increase the numbers of visitors, while spreading the pressure that they create on the facility and on the environment.

Visitor pressure is an issue that is being faced at a number of our key visitor destinations. The Institute has with this initiative, gone some way to managing such pressure here, now and in the future.

In terms of the extended opportunities available, where previously evening visitors to the Institute were restricted to the marae experience, they can now venture into the thermal reserve, in safety and in comfort, and enjoy the unique interpretation of the natural features offered to them by their Maori guides.

It is this process of adding value and providing our visitors, in particular our international visitors, with a uniquely New Zealand experience combing the richness of our peoples and cultures, with the natural environmental treasures of our land, that will drive success in the tourism industry.

Thank you once again on behalf of Carol and myself for the opportunity to participate in this official illumination ceremony, I am sure that this can only add to the status of the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute and the Whakarewarewa Reserve.