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Professional profile social entrepreneur: Eco-tourism in New Zealand - business plan in the rainforest

Joe Doherty of the Tūho tribe runs an eco-tourismCompany in the Te Urewera National Park near Roturura. He financed his studies with wild boar hunting. "If we want to save the future of the earth," he says, "ecological change is inevitable."

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Study funding by boar hunting

Joe grew up here in the mountains of Te Urewera National Park - in modest conditions and without electricity. In 1973 he left his home country to study in Wellington. Life in the big city was a big change for him, he says. "But my parents always encouraged me to go to school."

He had financed his studies through government funding - but also partly through the hunting of wild boars, which he brought as a hitchhiker to Wellington and sold there for good money.

6 Years at the New Zealand National Museum

Following his studies, he spent 25 years working for the government, spending most of his time in Wellington. Joe worked hard at this time to become a government organization manager.

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Among other things, he worked for six years for the Te Papa Tongarewa, the New Zealand National Museum, in which the Maori culture plays a decisive role.

Money and career do not make you happy

But at some point I realized: "I had a job and a lot of money, but it didn't feel filled." Then he started to deal with climate change and environmental protection.

And soon realized: "I was part of the problem by using unnecessary resources and accumulating things." And he admitted to himself that he would rather start his own business and return to his homeland.

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Businessplan according to Stammestradition

In close cooperation with his tribe, he developed the concept for his ecological tourism. The goal was that the tribe not only maintains its forest area, but also runs a afforestation project.

The company should also provide environmental protection jobs and income for young people. “The communities are very poor,” says Joe: “So there was hardly any headwind when I implemented my plans”

Hikes and bush camp

His company, Te Ureweratreks, now offers various hiking tours through the National Park where visitors can learn the local fauna and flora as well as the history and culture of the Tuhoe, a bushcamp and a tree planting project.

"We offer tours from 45 minutes to four or five days," explains Joe. “People sleep on the way in tents or huts that we have built. We take care of the food. Some tours are also done with horses. ”

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An entrepreneur who does not want to become too big

Joe currently has about 500 guests a year. The Buschcemp can accommodate up to 20 guests at the same time. “If 1000 guests came a year, the company would go really well and also generate enough money for the regular and social-ecological projects.”

"We shouldn't get too big," says Joe: "Personal contact with customers should be maintained, that's an important part of the project."

More about the social entrepreneurial approach can be found in the second part of my article.

How sustainable is tourism?

Joe's customers come mainly from New Zealand, Europe and the USA. He has already tried to acquire in more distant regions such as China or India and talked to travel agents there. But they would have waved: "Indians and Chinese do not travel!" let the statement be true.

Finally, I ask Joe: How sustainable can tourism actually be that we have to fly halfway around the world? "A good question," says Joe. "I think we would have to slow things down a lot and travel with sailing ships, for example." He also has no real solution to this contradiction.

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Reforestation of the rainforest as a target

Joe is committed to afforestation for the climate protection of the original rainforest. In New Zealand, 80% of them have disappeared - they were cut down for building houses or ships, for example, or simply burned down to make room for pastureland.

The problem is that the original rainforest grows very slowly and needs about 1.000 year, Joe tells me as we drive through seemingly endless North American coniferous forests that have been planted for wood production because they grow faster.

Maximum nature experience in the Busch-Camp

Together with members of his tribe, the head of Te Urewera Treks runs a bush camp in which guests spend the night in tents with sleeping bags on air mattresses and camp beds. Joe has deliberately foregone more comfort in the Busch Camp in order to offer visitors a maximum natural experience.

Therefore, there is also a compost-toilet, but surprisingly warm showers, which is good, because the next in the New Zealand rainforest can also be very cold in April, the late summer, and temperatures around the 0 degrees.

Hot shower, soon with green electricity

The power for the shower, says Joe, is currently being generated by a generator. For the future, however, he plans to generate electricity from hydroelectric power.

The Pelton turbine. which he wants to use, contains all the elements of a particular washing machine. Joe has suggestions for this http://www.ecoinnovation.co.nz.

Electricity win with old washing machines

His tribe already uses the technology in their houses, Joe tells me: The water coming from the mountain drives up old washing machines and thus generates electricity in an environmentally friendly way.

"The indigenous people have the solution to many problems," explains Joe. Our twenty-six year old guide Wiremu Nuku, for example, knows so well that he could survive alone in the wild.

Foundation for the rescue of the rainforest

To promote afforestation for climate protection in the rainforest, Joe founded the Rainforest Restoration Trust together with the Dutch travel company Travel Essence. Urewera National Park is home to some of New Zealand's oldest tree species, covering an area of ​​212,600 hectares.

On the one hand, it aims to create jobs for the Maori who are concerned with afforestation, and on the other, through the project, tourists have the opportunity to plant trees themselves - a trend that the public has repeatedly come up with through the so-called Tree Protester movement is moved, as Joe tells me.

How to plant Maori-style trees?

The tree planting is carried out according to a fixed ceremony: first a small hole is lifted with the spade. Then the small plant is placed. Then earth is dug thereon, and water is given to it.

They are usually planted with Rimu, Totara, Matai and Neuseland beeches. My three saplings are Totara. They look very small and fragile and could be 1.000 meters in 40 years.

During the planting, we solemnly speak the words "E tipu, e toro, e tu", which in Maori means "wax, stretch and stand". Everyone plants at least three trees: one for themselves, one for the others who were not so lucky and one to give something back to nature.

If the past is the future

For the future Joe plans a virtual forest on the Internet: "If you can't travel here, you can plant trees from all over the world," he explains his idea.

This also has a philosophical background: "We should orient ourselves to the traditions and the past in order to look into the future," reports Joe. Fittingly, both are the same word in Maori, “Mja”.

The tribal culture is always there

Therefore, the tribal culture also plays a major role on all hikes: “We tell our guests about the tribe and its history and see nature through the eyes of the tribe,” explains Joe. Each Maori tribe is assigned to a river, mountain or lake. “In this way, we want to make people live more sustainably and thus bring about ecological change.”

The Tūhoe are the only Maori tribe that did not sign the Treaty of Waitangi, which governed the relationship between Maori the White 1840. Currently, they have 90.000 ha forest under their administration, 270.000 more ha demand them from the government back.

Realistic view without transfiguration

But Joe does not gloss over the way of life of his tribe: his wife Joanna comes from England, the two lead a multicultural life and travel many.

Nevertheless, the two of them spent a long time living in the mountains in Te Urewera Park. As they wanted to give their children a better education, they finally moved closer to the town of Roturura, even though there is a school in the mountains. The social situation of the Maori as well as their education see the two rather critically. Many tribes, says Joanne, had almost lost their culture and would therefore have to demonstrate them all the more outwardly.

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2 responses to “Job profile social entrepreneur: eco-tourism in New Zealand - business plan in the rainforest”

  1. Sven Menterich says:

    This is probably only possible in New Zealand.

  2. Maria A. says:

    Great post, keep it up.

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