NORTHLAND New Zealand: cultural juxtaposition in harmony

The first nation spirit of Hokianga and Waitangi and exclusive elegance in The Bay of Islands

Northland, New Zealand is a timeless place of new beginnings, which has an impressionable significance in New Zealand culture and history.

It was here that the Maori explorer Kupe arrived on his wooden waka (sea-going canoe) to discover New Zealand, then later returned with a band of Maori settlers aboard the legendary Ngatokimatawhaorua. We had the pleasure of visiting the giant sand dunes of the entrance to Hokianga Harbour where Kupe arrived and his waka is buried.

With sincere thanks to Tania Barnes and Alison Smith from Millennium Hotels and Resorts we were taken on a spiritual journey in a region known for its stunning beauty, history, culture and picturesque beaches, and experienced what it means to arrive as a stranger and leave as Whanau, ‘extended family’. We also acknowledge and thank Kirstie Dyer-Grose from Air New Zealand without whom the support with flights for CINZ MEETINGS and familiarization programs would not be possible.

We had the pleasure to meet locals on both coasts who are passionate about their land, product and properties, filling visitors with stories of pride, passion and wonder. The contrasts for incentives can be immense from kayaking in pristine waters while fossicking for pippies, to a helicopter airport transfer after 18 holes of golf at one of the world’s best courses, Kauri Cliffs.

The time in Northland ‘Tai Tokerau’ in Maori, albeit short, was an experience of a lifetime, with memories that will remain forever. To explain what we experienced probably requires a Netflix series or documentary, so I’ve chosen to write a few short stories to paint a picture of what an incentive group is likely to experience and enjoy.

The Polynesian South Pacific: Ancient Wisdom – Modern Engagement

As we recount the story of Kupe we are taken back to a time where man first set foot on Aotearoa ‘The Land of the Long White Cloud’, near the giant sand dune, Niwa, which guards The Heads at Omapere. The Kauri Coast was spectacular 1,000 years ago as young Polynesian warriors explored the forest with giant kauri trees and harbour, a flooded valley, that became the ‘freeway’ connecting communities along the waterway.

The spiritual presence was not lost on these early settlers with stories created about the giant sentinel ‘Tāne Mahuta’ a huge kauri tree, in the Waipoua Forest, which to this day connects the Maori with the spiritual essence ‘wairua’ of New Zealand.

Some 800 years later as white man entered the region and the famous Treaty of Waitangi was signed just across on the east coast of Northland, the Polynesian Maori had tribal lands throughout the north and south islands of New Zealand.

The Tai Tokerau region, with Hokianga at its heart, remains unique as the birthplace of New Zealand, with the highest local population of Maori descendants in New Zealand.

The people of Hokianga and Waitangi are proud to welcome strangers coming in peace to experience a modern engagement with Maori culture, to hear traditional stories and songs and engage in ceremonies which bring cultures together and create new long-lasting friendships.

Incentive travellers of the future will be able to explore Tai Tokerau through the existing Waitangi Treaty Grounds and Museum and connection with the local Maori through a Peter Jackson inspired museum planned to be constructed at Opononi.


Tāne Mahuta Philosophy

Stand tall and proud
Go out on a limb
Turn over a new leaf
Remember your roots
Drink lots of water
Be content with your natural beauty
Enjoy the view and never stop growing.

Northland Activities to inspire the Corporate Incentive guest

New Zealand is an adventure destination and most visitors immediately are drawn to Queenstown with its wealth of activities through all seasons. Northland [Tai Tokerau], albeit less known, is now being promoted ‘as the oldest and newest’ destination for incentive groups.
The region of Northland is often referred to as winterless.

My experiences were exciting, and together with the cultural aspects, offer a well-balanced itinerary for all corporate group visits.

Arriving in Keri Keri by scheduled flight was the quickest option from Auckland but if time permits a unique transfer through rich countryside and spectacular scenery is recommended.

The drive west across country in a luxury coach opened the mind to the obvious contrast of grazing fields of sheep and well-kept farmlands, to the Maori owned lands where much of country was being transformed back to its natural landscape.

A welcome ceremony was performed by Bill, the Maori tribal chief together with Maori staff of the Copthorne Hokianga. Our response to Bill was to thank him as strangers from lands far away who came in peace. We were each gifted a greenstone taonga, a treasure blessed by Bill as we were welcomed as new family, whanau.


The silence was broken as we took off on jetskis owned by Lenny a local entrepreneur. The group went in search of pippies in the shallow waters of Hokianga Harbour and heard stories of hunting and gathering by his ancestors.

The pre-dinner drinks and canapés were offered in the silhouetted darkness of the forest, under a blanket of stars, as we were serenaded by song and connected to the spiritual essence of the place by stories from Koro. We stood in the presence of the national icon and giant sentinel, Tāne Mahuta, a giant kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest, which is estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years old and the largest kauri known to stand today.

A swim in Hokianga Harbour was a refreshing start to a new day of adventure. The activities on offer were extensive with guided hunting, fishing, gathering and stunningly picturesque bush walk experiences in the many nature reserves and forests, together with knowledgeable guides who have a passion and respect for their local environment and culture. Depending on the season the waters are rich in dolphin, whales and black marlin.



But we were whisked off to the east coast to visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds for an exclusive performance in the Whare and a guided tour and carving demonstration in the Waitangi Museum. On the way we visited one of many Northland wineries and Makana Confections, with exceptional chocolates and tempting confectionery.


Traditional toffee made with wicked amounts of real New Zealand butter, laced with macadamia chips, coated with milk chocolate on both sides and dusted with macadamia fines. And another favourite, Golden caramel, popcorn, macadamia chips and naughty quantities of butter spanked together with a big wooden paddle. The adult version of popcorn.



The Bay of Islands encompassing more than 140 subtropical islands is known for its undeveloped beaches, big-game fishing and Maori cultural artefacts. It’s also home to the 19th-century whaling port of Russell, whose waterfront promenade is lined with remnants from its days as the country’s first colonial capital. Activities aplenty for corporate incentive groups incorporating land, sea and air itineraries on foot, in kayak, sailing yacht, fishing launch, sea plane and helicopter.


We opted for a round of golf at Kauri Cliffs and a spa treatment or two. The course was immaculate, sublime in beauty and moreover challenging. Kauri Cliffs was designed and built by American consultant David Harman.

The par 72 championship golf course measures 6,510 metres and offers five sets of tees to challenge every skill level. Fifteen holes view the Pacific Ocean, six of which are played alongside cliffs which plunge to the sea. The beautiful inland holes wind through marsh, forest and farmland. Kauri Cliffs is currently ranked #39 in the world by Golf Digest Top 100 Greatest Golf Courses in the World. Just stunning!

Accommodation in Hokianga


Impressive accommodation for the corporate client and leisure guest. The Copthorne Hokianga added 10 luxury villas to its inventory in 2017 to offer incentive guests a contemporary stay in an historic location. Each private villa is shaped to resemble a wharenui [Maori communal house] a place of manaakitanga, of warmth, generosity, respect and kindness. With nature at its core, the villa’s luxurious bathroom is inspired by Hokianga’s river [awe], sea [moana] with gorgeous artwork of the land [whenua].

The cuisine is as fresh as collecting your own pippies and mussels from the harbour and with regional wines guests are offered a sustainable product to appreciate.

The location is stunning, overlooking The Heads at Omapere.



“Kia hora te marino, kia whakapapa pounamu te moana, kia tere karohiohi I mua I tou huarahi.”- “May calm be spread around you, may the sea glisten like greenstone and the shimmer of summer dance across your path.

Accommodation in Bay of Islands

The Copthorne Hotel and Resort Bay of Islands is a larger complex in Paihia with refreshing views of Pomare Bay across to Russell. The waterfront location is nestled in 60 acres of subtropical gardens, within the Waitangi National Trust Reserve. The resort is a harmony of nature and spacious comfort with 180 guest rooms each with its own patio or balcony.


Copthorne Hotel & Resort

Kauri Cliffs Lodge 

Kauri Cliffs is a member of Robertson Lodges New Zealand. The opulent and elegant suites, designed by Virginia Fisher at The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, glow in the morning light as the sun rises to reveal panoramic views across the azure Pacific Ocean. Set away from the main lodge and amongst native New Zealand forest, the 22 guest suites are housed as pairs in outlying cottages near to the lodge spa, gymnasium, tennis courts and swimming pools. The property is expanding to offer more cottages in 2019.

The Tourism New Zealand Top 10 Northland Experiences are listed HERE


Alison Smith – Director of Conference and Incentives – Millennium & Copthorne Hotels New Zealand
Tania Barnes – Conference and Incentives Business Development Manager – Millennium Hotels
Sharon Auld – Manager Australia – Conference & Incentives New Zealand
Shane Lloyd and Pip Lloyd – General Manager – Copthorne Hokianga
Koro Carman – Promotions & Relationships – Copthorne The Heads Omapere – Footprints Waipoua

Andrew Whittaker – General Manager – Copthorne Hotel and Resort Bay of Islands
Martin Hamilton – Lodge Manager – Kauri Cliffs Northland New Zealand
Paul Davis – General Manager – Regional Promotion and Tourism Northland
Tania Burt – Business Development Manager – Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Kirstie Dyer-Grose, BDM Groups, International Sales – Air New Zealand