7 May 2020

Two key Rotorua tourist drawcards the Agrodome and Rainbow Springs will go into what Ngai Tahu Tourism now calls “hibernation” along with all but one of the tribal entities.  

Confirmaiton of the earlier decision comes only days after the Rotorua Lakes Council announced a costly and ambitious plan to hook into the government's recovery push

The sole survivor in the Ngai Tahu closures is Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters, pictured above, which takes visitors on jaunts enabling them to experience “The full majesty of Queenstown’s impressive landscapes”.

The Mud reported on 24 April that the two iconic Rotorua attractions – the Agrodome and Rainbow Springs were among the Ngāi Tahu operated tourist operations closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic throughout New Zealand.

In an update on the move released yesterday (6 May 2020), confirmed these two and the remaining 14 operations would now be in what was described as “hibernation”.

The update was attributed to Ngāi Tahu Holdings chief executive Mike Pohio and Lisa Tumahai, Kaiwhakahaere, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu
The Mud asked for more clarification on the details and whether Ngai Tahu Tourism had been in contact with Rotorua entities and officials about the closure, but had not received a reply.

The earlier announcement led to strong condemnation on The Mud Facebook page, many viewing the move as a result of the internationalisation of the local tourist attractions.  The loss of real local links made them vulnerable when overseas visitors stopped as the attractions were now priced way out of the reach of many New Zealand and Rotorua residents.

The full version of the update is provided below for the interest of readers.


Ngāi Tahu Tourism change proposal decision

For decades now, Ngāi Tahu has been a tourism industry leader. We have built a strong, internationally recognised stable of businesses and experiences through years of hard work from talented and dedicated kaimahi. We remain firmly committed to the industry and upbeat about the future.

Following robust consultation with our kaimahi and careful consideration of their feedback, we can now confirm we have made a decision on our Ngāi Tahu Tourism change proposal.

Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters will remain open but with reduced capacity.

Completion of the construction and fitout of the yet-to-launch All Blacks Experience in Auckland has recommenced following the country’s move to alert level 3. Its opening date is under review with our Joint Venture and partner New Zealand Rugby.

The remaining Ngāi Tahu Tourism businesses are in the process of hibernation for the time being. These businesses are Agrodome, Dark Sky Project, Dart River Adventures, Franz Josef Glacier Guides, Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools, Guided Walks New Zealand, Hukafalls Jet, Rainbow Springs, Shotover Jet and Vantage Helicopters.

Consequently, our Ngāi Tahu Tourism workforce will be reduced from 348 kaimahi to 39 kaimahi for the time being. As a result of feedback received, this is 14 more kaimahi than originally proposed. The remaining team will protect and maintain our valuable assets and wildlife during the hibernation period and look towards the potential for growing business once the industry improves. Most impacted kaimahi will finish with us during June or July.

This has been an extremely difficult decision, but unfortunately the impacts of COVID-19 are devastatingly deep and far-reaching. As a result, we expect to write off the equivalent of the last five years of Ngāi Tahu Tourism profits. Even if the domestic market soon picks up, it will not be enough to sustain our current operations or staffing.

Our job now is to adapt our portfolio of tourism assets for an industry that will be undoubtedly different in light of this virus, but still filled with opportunities in the months and years ahead. With this in mind, we have retained the key capabilities we need so we are able to reopen at least to the domestic market when conditions permit, starting with Shotover Jet and Hukafalls Jet.

We want to reiterate that Ngāi Tahu remains deeply committed to the permanence and health of the tourism industry in Aotearoa. We know we can get through this period and, in time, bring manuhiri back to this country to experience our manaakitanga. We are confident that we’re taking the necessary steps to ensure the future viability of our tourism portfolio.

It is paramount Tourism, alongside the rest of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Group, emerges from COVID-19 well-positioned to continue serving the best interests of Ngāi Tahu whānau. These steps have been taken with our ultimate goal in mind: Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei.

We are grateful to our Ngāi Tahu Tourism kaimahi for their high level of engagement, professionalism, and understanding throughout this challenging time. We greatly value the contribution they have made to the organisation and to the iwi, and to have reached this outcome is truly devastating. We are continuing to do everything we can to support them through this period.


Mike Pohio
Chief Executive
Ngāi Tahu Holdings


Lisa Tumahai
Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu


The Agrodome and Rainbow Springs go into 'hibernation'

Only Queenstown-based tourism chopper  outfit spared

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