Tairawhiti Voyaging Trust has been awarded a Qualmark gold qualification for the cultural experience it provides on board the waka hourua Tairawhiti.
Not only is it the first business in Gisborne to receive gold status, the trust achieved it the first time it applied.
The Qualmark stamp is New Zealand’s official mark of quality in the tourism industry. It brings global visibility to tourist operators and gold qualification is the highest level.
Tairawhiti Voyaging Trust is now able to advertise its activities on board cruise ships and other sites that require Qualmark verification of quality.
Trust chief executive Te Aturangi Nepia-Clamp said when they first applied to get Qualmark rated, they were told it could take a couple of years to attain even bronze standard. Silver or gold status was possibly two to three years more.
When the email came through last week informing them they had gone straight to gold, there were a lot of high fives and excitement.
“It blew our socks off,” he said.
Mr Nepia-Clamp said the Qualmark stamp meant tourists knew they were taking part in an experience of the highest quality — a recognition acknowledged throughout the world.
While it was a surprise, administrator and on-board host Seda Procter said the gold standard was something they felt they deserved.
“A complete stranger assessed and recognised we have a quality, authentic product that will add value to our region and our nation.”
The waka hourua is a tourism experience that mixes culture, history and fun with modern-day story-telling, said Mrs Procter.
Tairawhiti Voyaging Trust has two products.
The first is an on-board story-telling of the past 7000 years of Polynesian and Maori canoe-building, exploration of the largest ocean in the world — the Pacific Ocean — and the discovery and settlement of Tairawhiti.
It also incorporates “the renaissance of modern-day voyaging and the story of our Tairawhiti waka”.
The second experience is a voyage on the vessel.
Mr Nepia-Clamp said both experiences represented the respect and values of the Tairawhiti Voyaging Trust.
The Qualmark assessor was welcomed on board three weeks ago in the same way as all manuhiri (guests/visitors) — with a mihi whakatau (formal welcome), karakia (prayer) and waiata (song).
The assessment ticked off the “nitty-gritty” of health and safety on board to Maritime NZ standards — an evidence-based assessment over three to four hours.
They were assisted by Tairawhiti Voyaging Trust trustee John Logan, Activate Tairawhiti — in particular Adam Hughes, Tui Babbington and Holly Sherlock — and trust consultant Tracy Johnston.
Mr Nepia-Clamp and Mrs Procter are to attend the first of three trade shows in New Zealand next week to market their now gold standard tourism experience.