New Zealand culture delivers captivating conference content

These days, the country’s indigenous Māori cultural elements are being integrated in the conference delivery, from speakers to content, to give rise to more authentic and transformative events

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 15: Welcome during the 8th IWG World Conference on Women & Sport at Aotea Centre on November 15, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images for WISPA)
The 8th IWG World Conference on Women & Sport integrated Māori values, content and culture into its programming

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Aotearoa New Zealand’s indigenous Māori culture has always held appeal for international delegates, with cultural experiences an enriching part of an event’s agenda.

These days, the Te Ao Māori (Māori worldview) approach is being increasingly embedded in New Zealand’s conference delivery, from speakers to content, to enable more authentic and diverse events.

New Zealand’s Māori cultural experiences can constitute an enriching part of an event’s agenda

Increasing diversity of voices
The inclusion of Māori culture was evident at the 8th IWG World Conference on Women & Sport held at the Aotea Centre in Auckland last November, attracting 1,850 delegates from 90 countries.

Local host WISPA (Women in Sport Aotearoa) arranged an advisory rōpū (group) He Wāhine Toa Kei Te Kokiri, which alongside Ngati Whātua Ōrākei as host iwi (tribe), guided organisers through the best way to integrate Māori values, content and culture into proceedings: from the opening traditional pōwhiri welcome, to the speakers, poi and waiata (song) in the programme activities.

Outcomes for Māori were also embedded in the conference, including a First Nations Workshop, the first indigenous-focused initiative in IWG’s 29-year history; and WISPA gave 76 scholarships to young leaders and Māori Kōhine (girls) to attend the conference, empowering the next generation.

Martin Sirk, founder of strategic consultancy Sirk Serendipity and recent visitor to New Zealand reasoned: “If a country’s appeal for events could be compared to a gift box, with solutions for the organisation’s and delegates’ business, educational and scientific objectives as the contents of the box, and the destination’s tourism and culture as the emotional wrapping paper, then New Zealand is uniquely positioned to include its cultural appeal inside the box, as well as on the wrapping paper.”

An opportunity for unique content 
Mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) is becoming an increasing point of difference for New Zealand at bidding time.

Auckland has been chosen to host WIPCE, the World Indigenous Peoples’ Conference on Education, in November 2025. It is expected to attract some 3,000 representatives to the New Zealand International Convention Centre to share strategies on culturally grounded education.

The bid was led by Auckland University of Technology’s Office of Māori Advancement and its Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Development with support from Auckland Convention Bureau and Tourism New Zealand.

Christchurch has also recently won two international conferences, both bid for by University of Canterbury (UC) academics in partnership with mana whenua (the local tribe) Ngāi Tūāhuriri, with the support of ChristchurchNZ and Tourism New Zealand.

It will host the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) in 2024, under the conference theme, Whiria te tangata | Weave the people together: Communicative projects of decolonising, engaging, and listening, and set to bring more than 1,000 delegates to Te Pae Christchurch.

The 8th Adaptation Futures Conference in 2025 (AF2025), which is part of the United Nations World Adaptation Science Programme (WASP), is expected to gather some 1,500 top scientists, indigenous scholars and policymakers, at Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre.

The bid acknowledged the vital role of inclusive approaches to climate-resilient development, which AF2025 will recognise by drawing on indigenous and local knowledge and special relationships with mana whenua, to advance a fairer, more liveable, and sustainable future for all.

Tourism New Zealand’s general manager, New Zealand & Business Events, Bjoern Spreitzer, said: “The authentic and transformative cultural knowledge and experiences that Aotearoa New Zealand can offer business event attendees really sets us apart as a destination. These events create excellent opportunities for knowledge sharing and positive legacies.”

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