Taxpayers will avoid a capital farce by putting ownership of a plastic waka directly into Maori hands

If they built a waka similar to this, which end would be the bow?

The Herald today is headlining a story about another handout to hapu.

The opening paragraph of the report says the Government’s gift of almost $2 million to the hapu to build a plastic waka for the Rugby World Cup has drawn outrage from some MPs.

But outrage, or any response of a critical nature, is bound to be the stuff of sour-grapes politicking from pissed off Opposition MPs who wish they had thought of it first.

The money being extracted from your pockets and mine, dear constituent, is going to a good cause.

As the Herald explains –

A waka-shaped pavilion is to be erected on Auckland’s waterfront, close to Queen’s Wharf.

The 60-metre long structure is expected to cost around $1,988,000 through Te Puni Kokiri, with $1.8 million provided by the Government.

Ngati Whatua o Orakei, who will own the pavilion, will contribute $100,000.

The surprise is that nobody came up with this proposal much earlier.

The tourists who come here for the Rugby World Cup will be dead keen to see a genuine Maori erection.

But ACT leader Rodney Hide is reported to have told Newstalk ZB it is shocking the Government has contributed almost $2million to the project, given the Government is already borrowing more than $300 million a week.

“It would’ve been hard to believe … that we would spend that much money on a waka that the people of New Zealand won’t even own.”

Hide also said it is hard to believe they want to use plastic to make the waka.

He can be pin-pricking prat on occasion.

But this time he is out of order .

Alf recalls being told once upon a time that plastic was actually invented by Maori long before the Pakeha turned up. Accordingly plastic is a taonga and looms large in their lifestyles.

That’s why we find so many plastic tiki in tourist shops.

Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples therefore is spot on when he says the waka will provide the “cultural heart of the entertainment programme on Auckland’s waterfront”.

A cultural heart made of good old plastic.

The waka is going to be used to “showcase the very best of Maori arts, culture, business and enterprise” during the tournament, Dr Sharples said.

“The haka is inextricably identified with All Black rugby, and Maori culture is a uniquely recognisable characteristic of New Zealand. This programme builds on our distinctive brand to promote New Zealand as a top visitor destination, and a place to do business,” he said.

Mind you, Alf is puzzled by the news that Ngati Whatua o Orakei wants the waka to be similar to the giant plastic rugby ball which first featured at the last world cup.

A waka shaped like a rugby ball will look a tad strange, he suspects.

Certainly not the sort of thing that would be seaworthy.

But never mind. Maori know what they are doing, and anyway they probably invented rugby too, and the plastic that has been a Maori building material for centuries will be put to good use.

The resultant erection is bound to win many admirers from the visitors.

No wonder Pita is pleased.

“Construction is getting under way, and we are assembling the world’s best Maori arts and cultural programme, to reflect the diversity of Maori excellence, and to appeal to the greatest audience, Dr Sharples said.

A trustee for the hapu, Ngarimu Blair, said Waka would help promote “brand Maori” at the Rugby World Cup and other international events.

But the Green Party are carping, too.

They are banging on about procedural shortcomings, saying the waka project should have gone out to tender so other iwi could have got involved.

A tender? So that the money would go to the outfit with the best idea for consuming it?

Nah. That’s namby-pamby.

Oh, and Labour MP Shane Jones told Radio New Zealand the idea of the Government paying for a plastic waka during a time of austerity is “out to lunch” and if the plan was to promote “brand Maori”, it could have been handcrafted carved from kauri or totara.

“Well $2 million bucks for a plastic waka, that’s the best that can be served up by the Minister of Maori Affairs for the World Cup, I think that’s an absurdly large level of money for an unproven project.”

But chopping down a mighty kauri or totara would be environmental vandalism. It’s to protect those trees that plastic was invented.

Anyway, Jones should remember that Maori are “special” because they are indigenous, and anything involving them is bound to be a triumph from many points of view, including economic.

Dr Sharples accordingly can proudly say say the project will have benefits for the whole country.

“The great thing about this project is that it promises lasting benefits. The waka pavilion will be an asset for Auckland, and the promotion will have ongoing economic benefits for Auckland and New Zealand as a whole,” said Dr Sharples.

As for the ownership quibble, yep, it’s true we taxpayers will be coughing up a lot of money for something that then will be owned by a bunch of Super City Maori.

But we chipped in much more money for a Maori boat shed in Wellington, as part of the Rugby World Cup euphoria that for months has addled the brains of our Cabinet Ministers.

In that case the Wellington City Council seemed to think it was entitled to claim ownership or part-ownership of a waka that was to sit in the shed, because its ratepayers had very reluctantly tossed in a few million too.

But the last Alf heard about it, the waka in question was in the hands of Maori who were very reluctant to share it.

Let’s not piss around with Auckland’ plastic waka. The Maori there will finish up grabbing it anyway, if they follow the Wellington example, so let’s just give it to them from the outset.

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