This is something we want to shout about.


Whispering Trails, a Hokianga based eco-tourism business, is this year’s recipient of Top Energy’s Business Development Fund.


What this means for business owners Maria Kire and Joe Wynyard, is the opportunity to take their business to the next step. Increasing tourist demand in the Northland region is providing business opportunities for them and Maria’s enthusiasm is contagious.


She describes Whispering Trails as an invitation for people to share in their lifestyle. To participate in traditional hunting and gathering practices and to embrace a cultural experience that is far removed from mainstream tourism.


Clearly the business is an extension of their cultural values and commitment to environmental sustainability. Maria speaks of her desire to ensure that the knowledge of her Ngapuhi ancestors is not lost. The concept of maanaki – to cherish, sustain and conserve – is at the heart of their business.


Both Joe and Maria have extensive experience in tourism. Joe, who originally founded the business two years ago, has worked for many years as a hunting guide and has an intimate knowledge of the area.


His extensive networks have given him access to private and tribal land blocks, opening up remote sections of bush and coast to allow a full immersion in the Whispering Trails experience.


They offer a broad spectrum of guided packages which cater for all levels of fitness and interest.

From foraging bush walks in the Waima Forest ranges, gathering shell fish in the harbour, land based fishing at local spots in the Hokianga, or hunting wild game such as pigs, goats and a variety of game birds.

The Top Energy Business Development Fund will allow them to reach out to new markets both nationally and internationally.


Maria is also looking forward to making use of the business mentoring package included in the fund. She recognises that the success of the business will also create sustainable employment opportunities for people within the community.


The judges were impressed by the level of detail shown and the completeness of their outstanding business plan. It was clear that they had done their homework. The judges also liked the idea of their digital detox holidays, which appeal to corporate customers wanting to switch off and immerse themselves in nature.


Top Energy launched their Business Development Fund in 2014. The scheme is designed to encourage and promote economic growth in the Far North. Grants of up to $30,000 are awarded twice a year for local business ideas or initiatives that have the potential to grow or diversify the Far North economy.


The money is either awarded in full to a single stand-out idea or in smaller amounts to several initiatives, depending on the number, quality and merit of the applications received.


For more information on Whispering Trails go to: or Facebook whisperingtrailshokianga

For more information on the business development fund go to:

For more information contact

Philippa White

021 2418740