24 May 2024 World leisure: news, training & property
 
 
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Spa Business
2023 issue 1

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Leisure Management - Sacred space: Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa, Rotorua, New Zealand

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Sacred space: Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa, Rotorua, New Zealand


Maori culture inspires upcoming New Zealand hot springs destination and spa

Rotorua is known for its hot springs, geysers and bubbling mud pools Shutterstock/ Dmitry Pichugin
Wai Ariki has been created by the development arm of the local Maori tribe Photo: Wai Ariki

After five years of planning, geotechnical preparation, COVID challenges and construction, Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa in Rotorua – the New Zealand city famous for its geothermal activity – is edging closer to completion.

Set to open in mid-2023, the 4,453sq m spa and wellness centre is grounded in te ao Maori (the Maori worldview). It will be infused with native culture throughout, including the physical design of the building, the wellness experiences and authentic manaakitanga (the concept of care and hospitality).

Wai Ariki means ‘chiefly waters’, and is a reminder of the origin of Rotorua’s thermal waters. The site is located on the shores of Rotorua’s lakefront and is being delivered by Pukeroa Oruawhata Group (POG), the development arm of the local hapū (tribe) Ngāti Whakaue.

The facility will form just one element of the wider health and wellness vision for the group’s 11-hectare site and be managed by Australian-based contract management firm Belgravia Leisure.

“Wai Ariki’s unique features combine with therapeutic mineral waters to deliver a world-class sanctuary that provides a place to relax, sustain and heal,” says Karen Golden, Belgravia’s general manager of destination, wellness and spa.

“The way local culture has been incorporated throughout the concept, design and product offering, combined with its location and people, provides a level of authenticity which we believe makes it unlike anything else in the world.”

POG deputy chair David Tapsell says Ngāti Whakaue and Maori culture will sit at the heart of the property, with the 650-year history of the tribe and Rotorua’s spa heritage forming an intrinsic part of the development.

“Wai Ariki is set to firmly position Rotorua in the global wellness and spa market,” Tapsell says.

Spa facilities
The site will have two main spa areas: Te Puna Kaukau Koruhuhū and Te Ahuru Mōwai l The Sanctuary – a space for bathing and spa treatments. There’s also a café and gift shop.

Within Te Puna Kaukau Koruhuhū, manuhiri (guests) will experience Haumanu Haerenga, a restorative journey made up of a series of hot and cold experiences designed to maximise therapeutic benefit.

The journey includes a herb pool – which combines mineral water with the aromatherapy properties of native plants to support calmness and relaxation; a mud experience; and a cool frigidarium.

The Wai Ariki brand speaks to the cultural narrative of Ngātoroirangi – a great ariki (chief) and tohunga (priest).

Caught in a blizzard climbing Mount Tongariro, Ngātoroirangi called for help from his sisters, Te Pupu and Te Hoata, to bring precious ahi (fire). It’s said the places the subterranean goddesses of fire dropped embers are where the region’s hot pools and other volcanic and geothermal phenomena can be seen today.

A powerful connection
“Every part of this spa provides a connection to the Ngāti Whakaue people and places that have come to define us through time,” says Tapsell. “In particular, the hot and cold experiences – while delivering proven therapeutic benefits – draw on the story of our ancestor, Ngātoroirangi.”

He concludes: “This is a defining history for Ngāti Whakaue and this legacy is present throughout Wai Ariki and its wellness experiences. This is part of what makes it truly unique – not just in New Zealand, but in the world.”

More: www.wai-ariki.co.nz

"The way local culture has been incorporated throughout makes it unlike anything else in the world" – Karen Golden


Originally published in Spa Business 2023 issue 1

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