The social programme includes visits to several scenic areas in the Auckland area, such as the Waitemata Harbour, Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke Island, Waitakere Ranges and West Coast Beaches, as well as a Maori cultural performance at the Auckland Museum.

Waitemata Harbour

The Waitemata Harbour, meaning “sparkling waters” is the focal point of Auckland city. Every year many New Zealanders and overseas visitors enjoy the sparkling waters and fantastic shorelines of the Waitemata Harbour. The harbour is used for recreation, shipping, fishing and tourism and hosted the America’s Cup yacht races in 2000 and 2003. The northern and southern sides of the harbour are linked by the Auckland Harbour Bridge and by regular ferry services.

Hauraki Gulf

The Waitemata Harbour opens into the Hauraki Gulf, Auckland’s aquatic playground. The Hauraki Gulf is a hive of activity, providing opportunities for sailing, boating, fishing, kayaking and island escapes. Ferry and aircraft services provide regular access to many of the islands. The symmetrical volcanic island of Rangitoto is an Auckland icon. Rangitoto’s name is derived from the Maori phrase, “Te Rangi i totongia a Tamatekapua”, which translates to “the day the blood of Tamatekapua was shed”. Rangitoto, formed about 600 years ago, is the largest, most recent and least modified of the volcanic cones and craters in the Auckland Volcanic Field.

Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island, one of the Hauraki Gulf islands, is 40 minutes by ferry from Auckland. Waiheke Island has vineyards, wineries, olive groves, pasture, sandy beaches, rocky foreshores and estuaries rich in native birdlife. The permanent population of 7000 residents lives in small village settings each with its own character. There is a slower pace of life than Auckland city and is a great place to relax and unwind. The climate is generally warmer than Auckland with less humidity and rain and more sunshine hours. The name Waiheke means “cascading waters”, but the name was given to the island by mistake. The original Maori name of the island was Te Motu Arai Roa, or long sheltering island.

Waitakere Ranges

The Waitakere Ranges are a dominant feature of Auckland’s western skyline. Formed about 20 million years ago by a volcanic upheaval under the sea, the easternmost slopes of an eroded volcanic plateau are the Waitakere Ranges as we know them today. Nearly two-thirds of the ranges, about 15,000 hectares, have been set aside as a reserve which includes one of Auckland’s main water supply catchment areas. Although much of the forest is regenerating native bush many large kauri trees can be found in the ranges. The area is home to many native birds such as the kereru (wood pigeon), tui, piwakawaka (fantail) and the kaka. The artistic suburb of Titirangi, about 30 minutes drive from the city centre, is the gateway to the Waitakere Ranges. A 30km scenic drive along the high ridge of the ranges gives superb views of the entire Auckland isthmus, with views of both the Waitemata and Manukau harbours. The Arataki Visitor Centre has excellent displays depicting native flora and fauna and information about the many walking and tramping tracks.

West Coast Beaches (Whatipu, Karekare, Piha, Anawhata, Te Henga or Bethell’s Beach, Muriwai)

These spectacular black sand surf beaches are a remarkable contrast to the placid bays of the Waitemata Harbour. Karekare attracted early New Zealand painters and photographers, all seeking to capture the dramatic essence of this special place, and this pursuit continues today. Karekare was the location for Jane Campion’s triple Oscar award winning movie The Piano. Piha is more than just a fine surf beach. Its rugged rocks, the majestic Lion Rock and the Waitakere ranges backdrop all contribute to the dramatic and inspiring scenery. Muriwai, the northernmost of these beaches is renowned as a rare mainland gannet colony where thousands of birds can be observed nesting directly below lookout points.

Auckland Museum’s Maori Cultural Performance Group

Known as “Manaia”, these performers are the face of Ngati Whatua o Orakei, the home tribe (tangata whenua) of Auckland – Tamaki Makaurau – and through them you can experience a taste of Maori culture. Their compelling performance offers visitors to New Zealand an insight into Maori mythology, genealogy (whakapapa) and spirituality (taha wairua). Experience the stories of New Zealand’s indigenous people amongst the most comprehensive and inspirational collection of maori treasures (taonga) in the world, presented by a group of highly trained and passionate performers. Manaia’s cultural performance includes a welcome song, the poi dance, the stick game, a weaponry display and the famous haka.