Cultural Guidance 

Cultural Guidance for Geosciences 2023

Aotearoa New Zealand is a land of many different people and cultures. Out of respect for those who came before us, the GSNZ is making an effort to conduct our conference in a culturally inclusive and respectful manner. We request that all conference participants conduct themselves in culturally sensitive ways throughout the conference, and provide the following guidance in accordance with advice from Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington as our host organisation, and from Te Atiawa ki Te Whanganui a Tara mana whenua (Māori territorial rights holders over the region in which we are gathering). Please take a moment to read this guidance as cultural etiquette differs from tribe to tribe, and marae to marae, and the protocols and procedures below may be different to those you may have experienced at other events and places.

Welcoming Ceremony

Most people attending the Geosciences conference will come as manuhiri (guests) to the university campus, and to the Whanganui a Tara Wellington region. As our conference may be attracting people who have never visited here before, cultural protocol is to hold a pohiri (formal Māori ceremony of welcome) on the host marae, Te Herenga Waka. However, due to ongoing work to seismically strengthen the marae buildings, holding a pohiri is not currently possible. We have therefore received permission from the Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington Deputy Vice Chancellor of Maori, Tū Temara, to welcome guests with a mihi whakatau (less formal welcoming ceremony) to be held inside the main conference auditorium.

The mihi whakatau will be an opportunity for all conference participants to come together in good spirit and settle in for the sessions ahead. We ask all conference attendees to conduct themselves respectfully throughout the proceedings by:

  • arriving at the venue at least 10 mins before the Opening Ceremony is due to start so that everyone can be seated 2-3 minutes before the ceremony begins.
  • leaving the front two rows of seating free for dignitarites, conference organisers and representatives from the GSNZ National Committee. You are welcome to sit anywhere from the third row back.
  • muting all mobile devices for the duration of the ceremony.
  • not talking while the ceremony is being conducted.

What to expect

Te Atiawa ki Te Whanganui a Tara hold mana whenua (Māori territorial rights) over the land on which our conference will take place and will be officating the mihi whakatau with authorisation from Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington Deputy Vice Chancellor of Maori, Tū Temara.

Please find your own way to the auditorium and be seated and ready 2 -3 minutes before the mihi whakatau is due to start. Mute all mobile devices.

The ceremony will be conducted by Matua Kelvin Tapuke. It will last approximately 10 – 15 minutes and be conducted entirely in Te Reo Maori. Please use this as an opportunity to immerse yourself in the traditional language and culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. Some explanation in English will be offered at the end, following a waiata (song) and karakia (spiritual recitation).

Closing Ceremony

The closing ceremony will end with an inoi whakamutunga (final prayer) acknowledging the learnings from our conference and bidding everyone travel safely home.Following this recitation, everyone is encouraged to join in the waiata: “Te Aroha”. We encourage all conference attendees to sing along with this waitata if they can, as this shows respect and support for the speaker representing you. You can listen to and learn Te Aroha, and find a translation into English, on this YouTube video.

Tikanga Tips

Tikanga loosely translates to “the way of doing things” in te reo Māori. In our ongoing efforts to make the GSNZ annual conference a more welcoming and inclusive space, we invite all conference participants and delegates to be ‘good guests’ and show respect for our hosts by minding the following advice:


Avoid touching another person’s head, unless invited. Māori people regard the head as very tapu (sacred).


Avoid putting hats on food tables. Why? This is linked to the idea that heads are tapu so anything that relates to heads, like pillows or hats, should also be treated carefully. (see ‘Food’ below).


Avoid passing food over anybody’s head. Why? There are many Māori rituals and practices relating to food. In a teaching and learning context, it is common for Māori to share food as a means of welcoming people, celebrating success, or building rapport. However, another important function of food is to remove tapu so it needs to be handled carefully around things that are considered to be tapu.

Tables and bags

Avoid sitting on tables, particularly tables with food on them or those likely to have food on them at any point. Avoid putting bags on tables. Instead place them on the floor or a chair. Why? Putting your bottom or carry bag on the table is perceived to be unhygienic. Not sitting on tables is also linked to Māori beliefs about the tapu nature of bodily wastes and the need to keep them separate from food.


Avoid entering and crossing a room while someone in authority is addressing an audience. To avoid offence, either wait quietly by the door until there is a break in the dialogue or, when that is not appropriate, enter as discretely as possible. Try not to walk directly in front of the speaker or, if you can not avoid it, crouch down as you pass as a sign of respect. Why? Traditionally Māori society is very hierarchical and crossing in front of a more ‘senior’ person is considered rude.


Avoid stepping over people, even in crowded teaching spaces when you are over people trying to find a suitable seat. Ask the person to draw their legs in first, or find another route. Why? From a Māori cultural perspective, it is considered offensive for a woman to step over a man.


Avoid sitting directly on pillows or cushions. They can however be used to prop up your back.

Tikanga Tips are courtesy of our venue hosts, Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington.

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Conference Organisers

Conferences & Events Ltd
Conference Manager: Ali Howard
64 4 384 1511 

This event is organised by Conferences & Events Ltd, Wellington, Auckland, Nelson & Nationwide.  We are a New Zealand business.