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Maori and Marae protocol

Maori & Marae Protocol

If you travel New Zealand a Marae visit is a must, then you may want to take photos of Maori landmarks or buildings. This is generally acceptable, as long as you first consult with the community and elders associated with the Marae, landmark or building.

Things to remember:

  • Many Maori sites are Tapu (sacred).  Areas such as burial grounds are particularly Tapu and not to be touched.
  • It is not acceptable to sit on surfaces used for eating or food preparation.
  • Food is not consumed inside the meeting house (Wharenui).
  • Footwear is always removed before entering the meeting house.
  • Marae (meeting grounds) are not tourist attractions - they are a vital and extremely sacred part of Maori life.  Always ask permission before entering a marae.

Marae Protocol
If you do want to see a Marae, the best way to do this is to be part of an organised Marae visit.  Here you will experience a traditional welcome (powhiri) and learn about Maori protocols, culture and mythology.
A marae visit follows this structure:
Powhiri (Formal Welcome)
The formal welcome begins with a wero (challenge).  During the wero a host warrior will challenge the guests (manuhiri). Carrying a spear (taiaha), the warrior will lay down a token for the guests to pick up - indicating they come in peace.
A group of host kuia (women) then perform a karanga (chant) of welcome. Women from the group of guests in turn respond as they move onto the marae.
Whaikorero (Speeches of Welcome)
Once inside the wharenui (meeting house), mihimihi (greetings) and whaikorero (speeches) are made. Waiata (songs) may also be sung.
After greeting the hosts with a hongi (traditional touching of noses) the guests will then present a koha (gift) to the hosts.
After the formal greetings kai (food) is shared.

A visit to a Marae will give you a great understanding about the Maori people and how things were in New Zealand before the arrival of the European. Your Maori hosts will be very friendly and will show you a great time.


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