More than every­day tourism aim of study

North Waikato News - - News -

Re­search high­light­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of sus­tain­able cul­tural tourism is the ob­jec­tive for Univer­sity of Waikato PhD can­di­date Mei Cooper.

The dis­tinc­tion be­tween tourism alone and sus­tain­able cul­tural tourism – which pri­ori­tises the well­be­ing of in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, cul­tural preser­va­tion and con­serv­ing the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment while pro­vid­ing eco­nomic re­turns to tribes – is im­por­tant for Cooper.

She said tourism could po­ten­tially ex­ploit the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment and host com­mu­ni­ties, con­tra­dict­ing those val­ues she held im­por­tant as a Maori woman re­searcher.

‘‘But now I think we can turn that around and we can use tourism to de­ter­mine our own fu­ture through sus­tain­able cul­tural tourism.’’

Cooper – from Ngaru­awahia – will be do­ing her bit to achieve that over the next three years as she com­pletes her doc­tor­ate at the Univer­sity of Waikato.

She is the re­cip­i­ent of a Te Ko­tahi Re­search In­sti­tute Doc­toral Schol­ar­ship, worth up to $ 85,000, and is re­search­ing whether tribal in­vest­ment in sus­tain­able cul­tural tourism along the Waikato River will im­prove the tribal well­be­ing of Waikato-Tainui.

She will also carry out case stud­ies at Te Awa­ma­rahi, Tu­ran­gawae­wae and Maun­gatau­tari Marae.

‘‘Tourism is one of New Zealand’s lead­ing in­dus­tries and plays a grow­ing role in the New Zealand econ­omy. Sus­tain­able cul­tural tourism can help us re­gen­er­ate our lan­guage and cul­ture,’’ she said.

She said many Maori tourism ven­tures were sim­ply in­vest­ments in tourism busi­nesses.

‘‘I’m from Waikato-Tainui and a lot of our tourism in­vest­ments are com­mer­cially driven, such as the Ibis and Novo­tel ho­tels in Hamil­ton and Auck­land Air­port.

‘‘It should also be about the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, our cul­ture and the peo­ple. I want to pro­vide a frame­work for Maori to de­velop a de­sign that will work for them. Sus­tain­able cul­tural tourism can pro­vide em­ploy­ment at all dif­fer­ent lev­els for the peo­ple and marae can be run like sus­tain­able busi­nesses.’’

She wants her com­pleted work to pro­vide a guide for marae look­ing to in­ves­ti­gate sus­tain­able cul­tural tourism.

‘‘ This re­search will use a bot­tom- up ap­proach work­ing with Maori at grass­roots level to de­sign a struc­ture unique to each marae. I want this re­search to be prac­ti­cal, easy to use and use­ful to all iwi and other in­dige­nous peo­ple through­out the world.’’

Cooper is near­ing the com­ple­tion of her first year of her doc­tor­ate, study­ing through the Waikato Man­age­ment School with guid­ance from the School of Maori and Pa­cific De­vel­op­ment.

She is de­vel­op­ing her project by work­ing with gov­ern­ment de­part­ments such as the Min­istry of Tourism and Te Puni Kokiri be­fore vis­it­ing marae to carry out case stud­ies.

SCHOLAR: Univer­sity of Waikato PhD can­di­date Mei Cooper of Ngaru­awahia is study­ing the dis­tinc­tion be­tween tourism alone and sus­tain­able cul­tural tourism.

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