Pōwhiri can be used as a tool for tourism if it's respectful - Te Reo expert

A Te Reo Māori expert says pōwhiri can be used as a tourism tool if it is respected. 

His comments come after non-Māori Princess Cruises staff in garish skirts with scribbles on their faces welcomed passengers onto the Port of Tauranga on Monday morning.

Photos of the "pōwhiri" emerged on social media, sparking outrage across the country.

AUT Senior Lecturer Valance Smith says tourism companies need to speak with local iwi and arrange a pōwhiri, not put on a pantomime.

He told The AM Show the performance was disappointing.

"If people want to have a legitimate, authentic and wonderful experience of the people of each area, we need to start having those conversations with Mana Whenua."

Smith said the Tauranga incident was a missed opportunity.

"Princess Cruises can do more in terms of creating a relationship with local iwi," he told The AM Show.

"Any relationship is about, 'How can we enhance the mana and dignity of each other'?"

Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell was appalled, saying the incident hurt the local community.

The pōwhiri was slammed as "racist".
The pōwhiri was slammed as "racist". Photo credit: Facebook

"It would be like a ship arriving in California, and the crew putting on Apache Indian outfits and doing a war dance on the wharf," he told Newshub. "It's just inconceivable to think that could happen, and yet that's exactly what happened here.

"I was extremely concerned."

Princess Cruises addressed the incident on Monday saying "no offence was ever intended".

"We took immediate steps to address this sensitive situation," the company said in a statement. 

"After being made aware of the situation, the ship's management team took action to withdraw the crew members from the area to prevent any further possibility of cultural insensitivity."

The incident follows a Lions club in Hawera featuring half-a-dozen people with their faces painted black, at Tarankai's A&P parade last November.