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Tourism, indigenous peoples and endogeneity in the Chatham Islands.Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to highlight indigenous and endogenous components of community capacity development through a focus on enterprise with renewed vigour and fervency attributable to local power elites and local collaboration and cooperation. Design/methodology/approach – The twenty‐first century identifies good practices in many aspects of bottom‐up planning and implementation in neoliberal political economies. New Zealand is for many reasons, due to scale, skills and education, an example of endogenous development that is used globally for best practice studies. This paper specifically identifies and explores the local responses to the challenge of democracy and opportunities for diversification through tourism services provision on the Chatham Islands. Findings – The paper notes that community capacity and governance on the Chathams has been the subject of discussion in recent years and the focus has been directed to conflicts in governance and possibly inappropriate policy and practice coordination. Although the refocus on endogenous development, empowerment and devolution of responsibility has a long pedigree in the context of the neoliberal economy, insufficient attention has been paid to the skills, inclination, social and economic capital for indigenous enterprise, more so in an environment of isolation, relative deprivation and dependence. Originality/value – This paper highlights indigenous and endogenous components of community capacity development through a focus on enterprise with renewed vigour and fervency attributable to local power elites and local collaboration and cooperation. A useful model of indigenous tourism development and its endogenous antecedents is considered at the conclusion.