May 18, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

On the plastic waka controversy | Morgan Godfery | Maui Street Blog

2 min read

I feel obligated to defend the decision to award $1.8m to Ngati Whatua to build a plastic waka for the Rugby World Cup. However, Ill look at it both ways.
Firstly, there should be a Maori presence during the RWC. Secondly, I do not buy the criticism that the waka is plastic in both a literal and figurative sense. The waka will serve as a testament to the tangata whenua (Ngati Whatua) and a symbolic tribute to the Maori culture. The fact that the waka will be plastic will probably make no difference, aesthetically speaking. Thirdly, BB points out:

After all there are by our reckoning a fair few Maori in the All Black Team. They have adopted a traditional Haka as their own. The World Cup imagery is laced with a modern take on traditional Maori designs.

Fourthly, in the scheme of things, $2m is utterly inconsequential. Fifthly, as far as we know the waka will generate revenue.
However, having said all of that I think Gordon Campbell makes an excellent point:

Reportedly, the related costs from the management, transport and storage of the waka mean that the entire enterprise is being budgeted right from the outset to lose money. Which raises the interesting prospect of whether the giant plastic waka has also been created from the outset as a tax write-off.

Admittedly, this is less than ideal. Consider this as well:

The whole episode with the plastic waka is not a good look for Maori entrepreneurship. Surely, someone in the Maori bureaucracy must have asked whether the most visible icon of Maori culture related to the Rugby World Cup should be a 60 metre long plastic canoe

I tend to agree with this.

Shane Jones take on this is pretty cringe worthy, yet he makes a number of valid points. He is right in pointing out that it is merely a stunt, an election year sop. However, he is wrong in writing it off completely. The waka will serve well as an attraction and will most certainly be utilised. The question though is will it be sustainable.
I’ll end by pointing out that this issue is such an easy target. An incredibly easy target. The media knows Maori issues lead well and can be sustained across several new cycles. And the public love it.

1 thought on “On the plastic waka controversy | Morgan Godfery | Maui Street Blog

  1. Sir Ron Carter: Let's all get on board Waka Maori

    Benefits from clever initiative will be many for NZ, says Sir Ron Carter.

    It was with dismay that I read and watched the kneejerk reaction to the announcement of a Maori cultural pavilion being part of the Rugby World Cup activities. As a society I had thought we may have got beyond all of that.

    I would invite people to look at the opportunity this project creates rather than fall into finding reasons why not.

    From my own experience of hosting overseas guests I know visitors to this country always want to find out more about Maori culture. It would be the same for any of us if we visited Peru or Vanuatu or Greenland; we would want to know about that country's history, its people and how things are today.

    So it is a mystery to me why Ngati Whatua o Orakei's well-thought-out plans to put in place a series of events and experiences focused on Maori culture, right on the waterfront in Auckland, during the Rugby World Cup, could draw criticism.

    The design to my eye is great and its location will draw people to the waterfront which is a jewel of Auckland. Thousands flocked to the same area when another great sporting event was held in Auckland, the America's Cup.

    They got the location exactly right.

    A waka-shaped building will stand out and I am sure become one of the most photographed features of the World Cup activities. Another photographer's favourite will be the giant tekoteko carved figures around Eden Park, also a Ngati Whatua initiative.

    My understanding is the waka is able to be transported and reassembled anywhere in the world so it also has life after the World Cup. Once again that is good thinking.

    The return on investment from this project and the good it will create for this country will be seen in economic activity, increased tourism over the long term and just the sheer interest and excitement of hosting a major world sports event. Haven't we had enough of tragedy? Why not embrace something positive. Waka Maori represents good value in my eyes.

    For those thinking about Christchurch, I believe the best way to assist the people of Christchurch is to grow the New Zealand economy. I am convinced by making the Auckland events a huge success the economic outcome will benefit the whole country.

    I feel fortunate that I have known people of Ngati Whatua for a long time and I am very impressed with how they conduct themselves and how they contribute to our city. While I don't know a lot of the detail about the project yet, apart from the design and materials being used, I do know some of the people involved and that reinforces my belief this project will come together well.

    It is unfortunate that some people, without thinking or knowing, labelled this the plastic waka or the Tupperwaka when in fact the materials being used are all technologically sound. Rather than be disrespectful to Maori culture I would suggest the waka building is a pointer to the place Maori will take in our society in the coming decades. The thinking that has created what is called Waka Maori is innovative and has captured attention. It is Maori taking things into their own hands driven by the desire to proudly show the world their heritage and present-day life. They could have put up a tent to provide shelter but they have added some wow factor by building a venue in the shape of a waka. What could be better.

    In 2011 Maori want to show the world their culture and want to do it in a way that visitors will remember and enjoy.

    As a European New Zealander, that doesn't detract from my life, it only adds interest. I will be taking visitors to Waka Maori because – by the fact of being a New Zealander – Maori culture is infused in what and who I am, and that is fine by me.

    Sir Ron Carter is patron of the Committee For Auckland.

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