Attacks on Waka Serve Only To Strengthen The Project

Press Release – Ngati Whatua

Having an election campaign at the same time as the Rugby World Cup was identified early as a risk in the planning for the Waka Maori project says Waka Maori steering group member Ngarimu Blair.News Release
For immediate release
July 30, 2001

Politically Motivated Attacks on Waka Serve Only To Strengthen The Project Says Ngati Whatua

Having an election campaign at the same time as the Rugby World Cup was identified early as a risk in the planning for the Waka Maori project says Waka Maori steering group member Ngarimu Blair.

He says first Labour’s Shane Jones attacked this Maori project and now Hone Harawira and a tribal member have attacked the project as a means of trying to get at the sitting MP Hon Dr Pita Sharples.

“We have tried to stay politically neutral in this process however with the most recent attacks on Dr Sharples by political opponents we believe we must respond.

“Dr Sharples has backed the idea that there must be a strong Maori cultural presence in Auckland for the Rugby World Cup. He has worked very hard for Maori to ensure this idea made it through the decision-making process in Cabinet. While others have been criticising, he has been getting things going for the good of Maori and we very much appreciate that.

“In this case one of our own iwi has come out in support of Hone and in doing so has tried to discredit his own tribe. Anyone understanding tribal politics will understand there is nothing unusual about that. Our Trust Board, Marae Committee, whanau hui, wider Ngati Whatua and most importantly our Council of Elders are 100% committed to hosting our visitors well.”

Blair says the 75 metre long waka will attract large numbers of international and local visitors to experience Maori culture and entertainment during the Rugby World Cup. As mana whenua Ngati Whatua o Orakei has a responsibility to host people who come into their area and what better way to do that than show visitors how alive and vibrant Maori culture and business is, he says.

“Compared to other World Cup projects Waka Maori is relatively inexpensive and yet we are sure it will provide international visitors with some of the most memorable moments of their time in New Zealand – apart from the All Black win of course.”

Blair says the recent Herald headline about the waka being destroyed is absolute nonsense.

“The waka will be used for many years all over the world to promote New Zealand. It will not be destroyed at all. We have received many enquiries from organisations wanting to use the waka after the cup is over but we are so busy putting on the event we have not had time to turn our attention to that yet.”

Ngarimu Blair says he expects more attacks from the Herald on World Cup projects as overall they have not been supportive or positive about too much to do with the world cup. A lot of people across all of the projects have been working very hard and so this negativity is unwarranted.

“The next angle they might try is to imply there are conflicts of interests between all of the parties. That is a well worn track when creating stories to try and discredit Maori as most of us are related in some way anyway. At Ngati Whatua we have good commercial governance systems and policies and so conflict of interest is well managed.”

Last Monday at a packed Waka Maori launch event in Auckland some of the acts to be performing at the waka were announced. The full programme will be announced over the coming weeks.

The first set of performers to be announced include contemporary band 1814, violinist Elena, Maori vocalist and songwriter Tama Waipara, five piece Maori electronic roots band WAI, bilingual singer songwriter Miss Black and the Light, double platinum singer songwriter Maisey Rika, and jazz and soul musician Whirimako Black.

“We have worked hard to create a programme that will give visitors a real taste of Maori and New Zealand culture from traditional kapa haka to contemporary bands. Performers are being drawn from around the country.”

Blair says the Waka Maori team have designed the programme so that if people come on one day they will see an exciting line up and then be able to come the next day and see something quite different and equally exciting for them.

Each day will begin with a powhiri where visitors will be able to participate in a traditional welcome. There will be performance throughout each day as well as active displays where people can go and watch traditional carvers and weavers in action and see Maori art.

Blair says construction of the waka pavilion is progressing well.

“The waka pavilion structure is being made of glu-laminated New Zealand timber and that will be covered with a state-of-the-art tension membrane.

The pavilion will have a stage floor, lighting air conditioning and heating as well as catering facilities for the various business events that will take place in the waka to showcase Maori business.



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