Skip to content

Tiaki in Waitomo shines a light on regenerative tourism in iconic destination

A new initiative, ‘Tiaki in Waitomo’, has been launched by Hamilton & Waikato Tourism to shine a light on the ability of tourism to make a meaningful and positive contribution to the environment, community wellbeing and cultural storytelling, as well as the economy.

Tiaki in Waitomo explores the important mahi (work) being undertaken by tourism operators in the destination to ensure the experiences they offer actively contribute to the community and environment through a series of engaging videos and articles.

“Waitomo is world-famous as a must-see New Zealand destination, but what’s less well known is the immense effort that has been taking place to provide those visitor experiences sustainably,” says Hamilton & Waikato Tourism Chief Executive Nicola Greenwell.

“There’s been fantastic work going in in Waitomo for a long time and we’re bringing that out into the open to shine a light on the great work that has been and continues to be done. 

“From riparian planting and the use of solar panels for energy generation to pest control, friendly customer service and an unwavering focus on employing and selling local, there’s some truly eye-opening work being done by Waitomo operators that others can learn from.”

The initiative has been developed by Hamilton & Waikato Tourism with the support of Waitomo tourism businesses, the Waitomo District Council, Tourism New Zealand, the Department of Conservation (DOC), and the Waitomo isite. 

Tiaki means to care for people and place and this project ties in with the national tourism industry’s ‘Tiaki Promise’, which has been widely adopted by tourism operators and is promoted to domestic and international visitors, including at isites and on Air New Zealand flights.

Tourism New Zealand Pou Ārahi Māori Karl Burrows says the Tiaki in Waitomo series is a great example of how the Tiaki Kaupapa is being embraced by Waikato’s tourism sector.

“These stories provide tangible examples of how people in one region are adopting Tiaki for the benefit of their community.”

Showcasing operator stories to inspire other locals, manuhiri (visitors) and industry alike, the Tiaki in Waitomo project has also involved industry events to discuss the concept of Tiaki creating operator resources and working with individuals on initiatives they can introduce in their own businesses. Working closely with Waitomo District Council the wheels have also been set in motion for Tiaki signage and imagery to be installed in the village and across the wider Waitomo district. 

“Alongside the focus on encouraging tourism businesses to embrace and showcase the amazing mahi they are doing in their operations, we are working with our Waitomo operators to share the Tiaki messages to help educate manuhiri about the part they also play in caring for our people and place,” says Greenwell.

“It’s about spreading the message of treading lightly and being respectful as they enjoy Waitomo’s unique environment, culture and experiences so that future generations to come can do the same.”

Greenwell said the work undertaken in Waitomo – much of it done over many years – has led to the return of birdlife, cleaner waterways, healthier caves and more abundant glowworms.

“The stories of the operators, whether they are corporates or small family-owned businesses, are incredibly inspiring, both for manuhiri who care about experiencing the country in a sustainable way and also other tourism businesses who want to understand how they can embrace Tiaki in their own operations.”

One of the tourism operators profiled as part of Tiaki in Waitomo is Waitomo Adventures, which runs caving, black water rafting and abseiling tours through some of the area’s stunning caves.

Owner Nick Andreef says Tiaki in Waitomo is a great way for businesses to showcase the pride they have in the region and share what they have learnt over the years.

“Our team members have a strong affinity for Waitomo so it’s only natural we want to make sure the magic of the area is protected for future generations to enjoy as we have. We’ve seen the difference actions like planting trees, controlling pests and investing in an energy-efficient building can make to our own operation and if that journey can inspire others; we’re all for it.”

Greenwell says the launch is just the start. 

“The Tiaki in Waitomo concept aligns with the underlying regenerative tourism Kaupapa of our Destination Management Plan. It’s a concept we hope to grow and, funding permitting, replicate in other Waikato communities.” 

Hamilton & Waikato Tourism is the regional tourism organisation charged with increasing international and domestic leisure and business travellers, expenditure and stay. They lead destination management, destination marketing, business events & conventions, major event coordination and the Thermal Explorer Regional Events Fund for the region. The organisation is funded through a public/private partnership and covers the heartland Waikato areas of Hamilton City, Matamata-Piako, Ōtorohanga, Waikato, Waipā and Waitomo Districts. Find out more at

Have a story to share?

The Waikato is full of people and businesses doing great things. Their stories help build our understanding of the strength of the Waikato and the benefits of living, studying, visiting or doing business here.