NMIT and Waka Abel Tasman: Where education, community & culture meet

NMIT and Waka Abel Tasman: Where education, community & culture meet

What if you could trade a classroom or lecture theatre for one of the most beautiful coastlines in New Zealand?

What if you could trade a classroom or lecture theatre for one of the most beautiful coastlines in New Zealand? That’s what NMIT Tourism and Travel and Maritime students get to do every year, working with Waka Abel Tasman in Abel Tasman National Park.

The relationship with Waka Abel Tasman and other tourism operators in the region is part of NMIT’s commitment to providing students with real-world, hands-on education.

It’s an opportunity for students to get experience working with a tourism operator, learning about operations and safety, as well as Māori cultural values like kaitiakitanga (guardianship), manaakitanga (hospitality), and whanaungatanga (relationship), which underpin Waka Abel Tasman’s business. 

Bringing people together

Waka Abel Tasman owners Todd and Lee-Anne Jago play an important part in delivering this unique brand of education to NMIT students. Todd was NMIT’s Adventure Tourism programme coordinator for 20 years and is still involved as a contractor, so he knows how important real-world experience is for students.

Todd and Lee-Anne take Adventure Tourism students on a 3-day waka expedition during the orientation week and host Superyacht Crewing students for a day tour where they learn about navigation and weather, as well as many other trips for NMIT students and staff throughout the year.

“I love to share our Māori culture and tikanga with the students and all manuhiri (visitors),” Todd says.

“We think being on the water and being aware of kaitiakitanga, and whanaungatanga is really uplifting for people. Being in the waka brings people together, you have to look after each other and the environment around you.

Embracing Māori core values

NMIT Tourism & Travel tutor Katrina Marwick says the way Todd and Lee-Anne weave Māori cultural values into the experience is extremely valuable for students.

“This meant they understood how the company contributes to kaitiakitanga, and their manaakitanga and whanaungatanga is very obvious once you start looking at how they relate stories of the land.

“It’s great to encourage embedding and embracing Māori core values and practicing those during the year.”

NMIT Superyacht Crewing tutor Pete Carmichael says the Waka Abel Tasman experience helps students to band together and get to know one another.

“Because it’s day two of their course, the students turn up as a big disparate group and no one knows each other.

“Then all of a sudden we go out and we’re chucked on a boat together. If you don’t paddle together the boat doesn’t move very well so it’s an awesome metaphor for what they’ve got to do. Generally, by the end of the day, everyone’s into it. You know they’re ready to start the course, they’re super keen.” 

Connecting with the real world

Waka Abel Tasman is just one of many local tourism operators that NMIT has an ongoing relationship with.

Every two weeks, NMIT tourism students visit a local business, whether it be a holiday park, i-SITE, accommodation provider, tour company, museum, or the airport.

“We try to cover all tourism sectors,” Katrina says.

“It’s really important to get students out so that they get to meet industry operators, and to hear what people in those frontline positions actually do, what their role is, and to see their reservation systems, and management systems.”

The focus on learning outside the classroom in a wide variety of settings makes the study experience more engaging and exciting for students.

Recent Adventure Tourism and Guiding graduate, Shania Kuipers, described her time at NMIT as “the most fun I’ve ever had”.

To anyone considering following in her footsteps, she says: “Do it. It’ll be the best two years of your life.”

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