'Pantomine pōwhiri' for Tauranga cruise ship guests 'beggars belief' - Ngāi Te Rangi

A cruise ship company is in the firing line for welcoming its guests to the Port of Tauranga with a "pantomine pōwhiri".

Photos of the 'pōwhiri' show a group of young men with colourful artificial grass skirts, sandals and face paint greeting guests under a Princess Cruises gazebo.

Comedian Steve the Māori shared images of the welcome online, calling it a disgrace.

"In this situation Princess Cruises (purely an assumption based off the branding of the tent) are using their own non NZ staff, with careless scribbles on their faces wearing skirts which do not depict Māori culture," he said.

"I find it deplorable to blatantly lie to guests in a racist attempt to save money on local performers... This practice needs to be discouraged.

Paora Stanley, chief executive of mana whenua Ngāi Te Rangi, told 1 NEWS it "beggars belief".

"For the manuhiri to be treated with a pantomime pōwhiri like this beggars belief, and further perpetuates racist myths."

Port of Tauranga told 1 NEWS it isn't involved in the passenger welcome activities, however a spokesperson called the welcome "unacceptable".

In a joint statement, Ngāi Te Rangi and Tourism Bay of Plenty said they were "saddened and offended".

"Tourism Bay of Plenty values its relationship with tangata whenua. Tourism Bay of Plenty supports and acknowledges the right of local Iwi and hapū to manaaki (welcome) cruise visitors.

"Tourism Bay of Plenty condemns the appropriation of Māori culture and we are disappointed to see this happen in Tauranga Moana."

The welcoming was organised by the Golden Princess cruise ship, Princess Cruises confirmed.

"We give a complete assurance that no offence was ever intended and we apologise unreservedly for what has happened."

Ngāi Te Rangi and Tourism Bay of Plenty said they hoped to work with Princess Cruises and tangata whenua to ensure this never happens again.

"We hope that Princess Cruises can use the community's reaction as a cultural guideline for future engagement with tangata whenua in Aotearoa and abroad."