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Maori Cultural Experience

kotane-logoWillowbank is the home to Ko Tane - an authentic Maori cultural experience, that will leave you more knowledgeable, moved and laughing. When you join us for a Ko Tane cultural tour, you will be participating in a memorable evening that not only gives you an insight into pre-European Maori culture and lifestyles, but also passes on tradition and inspiration from the opening Powhiri (greeting ceremony) to the closing waiata (songs).

 We welcome and encourage your participation throughout the evening.    

Ko Tane has been created by the coming together of the Willis family (founders of the reserve) and the Brennan family. The Brennans are from the Ngai Tahu tribe which traces its ancestry back to Paikea, the original Whale Rider. Paikea fathered Tahupotiki, who was the founding ancestor of Ngai Tahu. Eventually the Ngai Tahu moved to Te Waka o Aoraki (the South Island) and intermarried with the Ngati Mamoe and Waitaha peoples, over time becoming the dominant tribal group of the entire South Island.

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What to Expect at Ko Tane

The Beginning

  • The blowing of the Putatara (conch) starts your evening. The conch was used as a form of communication over great distances to inform of intruders or visitors.
  • Your guide will explain the night ahead, with stories that have been passed down through the generations.
  • Come face to face with our wildlife. Our guide will explain the relationship between Maori, wildlife and conservation.

Village Welcome

  • HongiBe guided through and welcomed onto our Pa (village) with a powerful challenge by our fearsome warrior. The Wero or Challenge is where the warrior or most skilled warrior displays a number of movements to distinguish the intentions of the visiting parties. (Do you come in peace or to fight?)
  • This will be confirmed by the picking up of the TAKE laid by the warrior for the chief of the visitors. Once this gift has been accepted visitors will be allowed to enter onto the next stage.
  • Inside the village the chief will speak words of welcome to the visitors and thank the chief of the visitors for accepting the challenge to come in peace.
  • The pressing of noses (hongi) is the final part of the welcome process this is the sharing of life between the two parties and must be done between the two chiefs.

The Village

Here your guide will discuss the lifestyles, including some of the hunting techniques, of the Maori people. The village is a papa-kainga or hunting village. There were around 1400 of these types of sites in and around the pre-European Canterbury region.

  •  The hunting and capturing of bird species was a specialised skill with different types of birds serving different needs. The easiest birds to hunt for food were the flightless kiwi, weka and the large moa which were trapped with snares.   
  • Flax was the most important fibre to Maori as it was used to bind buildings & boats, for clothing, hunting snares, rope & fishing nets.
  • One of the traditional uses for musical instruments was to duplicate communication with the birds to trick the bird into a trap.  

A Performance

WaiataIt is here you will learn:

  • Haka (war dance) the haka is a preparation for war. This is a dance usually for men however there are some haka where women participate, the first haka of the evening will be one such haka.  
  • Poi dance (swinging ball): The poi was a flax ball commonly used to store food for long distance journeys. Other uses included training for warfare where the balls use was to assist with the strengthening of elbow and wrist joints to aid in greater flexibly for the heavy short and long club weapons    
  • Waiata ringa (action songs with a hand display) spoke about events and family members of great mana (prestige). It also helped to record and preserve historical events.   

Hangi Meal

After the performance you will move into the Restaurant where you will be served a 4 course dinner with Hangi cooked mains. We have a fully licensed bar. 


Your menu tonight



A Variety of Breads with a Selection of Dips


Your choice of Soup

Traditional Seafood Chowder


Spicy Pumpkin, Coconut & Watercress Soup



Manuka Smoked Selection of Meats

Lemon & Kawakawa Chicken Thigh

Ginger & 5-Spice Pork Belly

Garlic & Rosemary Lamb Shoulder Chop


A Selection of Hangi Cooked Vegetables

Seasonal Tossed Salad



Traditional Pavlova with Fruit Couli, topped with cream & served with

New Zealand’s own Hokey Pokey Ice cream


Challenge-2Gifts and Shopping


The Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and Ko Tane provide a Gift Shop themed to Natural New Zealand that provides great gift ideas for those at home or a treat for visitors. Lanolin, paua, wooden, stone or bone carvings and Manuka honey  products along with clothing, jewellery and souvenirs are among the popular items in our store.

Email or contact us by phone to book your tour.


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“Good service. Explanations well received. Interaction very well received. Good experience"

March, 2010

VIP Passes


Do you have important customers visiting your company that you need to entertain without the personal hassle of being there to pay?

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Great Value Deals

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Willowbank Wildlife Reserve Annual Passes are valid for one year from date of purchase.

A Club Willowbank Pass is valid for 2 adults and up to 3 children. $149.00 (unlimited entry for one full year)

Individual Adult $69.00

Individual Child $21.00 

 Click here to read our conditions for this pass.

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Corporate Functions and Work Do's

When it's time to put aside the serious stuff from work and monkey around with your workmates, then Willowbank is the perfect function venue. At a time when many Christchurch venues are closed, consider the fantastic options.

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