Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

On the nation’s gift of a plastic waka to Ngati Whatua

April 6th, 2011

Wayne Youle, ‘Often Liked, Occasionally Beaten’, 2004.
From the 2006 exhibition Plastic Māori – A Tradition Of Innovation

There’s a something wrong with putting the words ‘giant plastic’ and ‘authentic Maori culture’ in the same sentence, but almost everything about the plastic waka deal signed off by government sounds bizarrely wrong. To start with the obvious – genuine indigenous culture is not plastic. In fact, the process of re-packaging culture for the benefit of tourists usually goes out of its way to avoid being seen as plastic. And if the plastic waka is mainly going to be a prop at Party Central… isn’t that the sort of thing that is usually counted as gross exploitation when beer companies do it?

On paper, the deal is exceptionally generous to Ngati Whatua o Orakei. They are being given $1.8m of taxpayers’ money, and will put up only $100,000 of their own money for a $2 million object that they will own entirely, once it has been built. 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.

Will the projected loss qualify as a cost that can be legitimately written off against the owner’s other tax liabilities – and if so, what’s the net cost going to be to the taxpayer beyond the $1.8 million paid upfront? And how many other deliberately loss-making Rugby World Cup ‘promotions” are going to be similarly allowed to diminish the country’s tax base in the wake of the tournament – an event that is, in itself, being budgeted to lose around $40 million? (That’s not counting the benefits that will accrue to the hotel, accommodation and tourism operators from this generous (and rare) form of taxpayer subsidy.)

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 ? Even back in the 1960s film The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman’s character Benjamin Braddock was given one word of advice by the businessman Mr McGuire: “Plastics”. It was a bad word back then – a synonym for phoniness and in-authenticity – and its an even worse word now, given that plastic waste is choking the very oceans over which Maori claim a guardianship role. One would have thought the Greens would have opposed the project on all the above grounds – and not complained (primarily) because this idea wasn’t put out to tender. That’s the least of the concerns.

***

Pike River Puts Its Hand Out

Just as incredibly, the receivers for Pike River Coal are now– in effect – asking for legal aid to participate in the Royal Commission inquiry into the tragedy. The families of the victims receive legal aid, and that’s entirely appropriate. The contractors – some of whom were involved in training and safety procedures at the mine as well as others who were supplying essential gods and services – have been advised they will not receive legal aid. Nor, it seems, will they be exempt from subsequent legal liability for any testimony they give about procedures at the mine.

All of this threatens the breadth and integrity of the Royal Commission process. One would have thought such issues would have been sorted beforehand, rather than the contractors being told about the lack of legal aid (and lack of safeguards against self-incrimination) on Monday of this week, just as the Commission began its hearings.

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    1. 10 Responses to “On the nation’s gift of a plastic waka to Ngati Whatua”

    2. By Wyndham on Apr 6, 2011 | Reply

      Would it be the ultimate in cynicism to suggest a connection between Maori Party Pita Sharple’s electorate and the National Party ?

    3. By Sacha on Apr 6, 2011 | Reply

      As part of the RWC, Eden Park gets to pocket publicly-funded improvements at many, many times the cost of this waka-shaped marquee. It’s not publicly-owned either. Where’s the similar outrage?

    4. By Sean on Apr 6, 2011 | Reply

      This waka is an incredible symbol of the current government.

      The Government wants the New Zealand public to stump up money to build a large asset for a private group. That asset is going to be oversized, and possibly photogenic, but shortly after the Rugby World Cup it will look a bit shabby.

      And furthermore, despite all reasonable expectation, the asset will never prove practical, because it is a waka that will never float.

      This waka should be named “Te John Key”.

    5. By Len HARRIS on Apr 6, 2011 | Reply

      The local Maori at Waikawa Bay, Picton already have a giant fibre glass Waka produced in Blenheim. I suggest you borrow it. Len HARRIS

    6. By donna on Apr 6, 2011 | Reply

      “This waka is an incredible symbol of the current government.”

      Touche.

      Plastic, hollow, tokenistic, and and a big fat blot on the Auckland landscape. There’s not much to love about either.

    7. By TEPUAREWA KAA on Apr 7, 2011 | Reply

      WASTE THE MONEY WHATS WRONG WITH PEOPLE WHEN THERE ARE SO MANY ISSUES THAT NEED ATTENTION.THE WORLD CUP IS ONLY FOR A SHORT TIME.PEOPLE ARE STARVING,THEY NEED HOMES,JOBS GET IT RIGHT!!.

    8. By Sean Kerrigan on Apr 11, 2011 | Reply

      Surely it’s not our place to judge how the local Maori decide to promote themselves at such an event. If one were to comment then maybe the time is right for Maori to passionately embrace yet another non-traditional material and make of it what they will.

      It may be that a very wry commentary is made to be so high and dry!

      If I, as an artist, were offered 2M to create an object for party central I would hope my own offering would be so intriguing!

    9. By Ho Hum on Apr 11, 2011 | Reply

      This is just another action by the key government to show they do not care a rats arse about the working public in NZ.

      I thought it was just the money trader who learned to leave his morals at home when he went to work but it is the whole of the National caucus who has shown they picked John Key to lead them just because he has no issues with working with no morals.

    10. By Chris on Apr 19, 2011 | Reply

      Build a sleek new Colonial rowing boat instead, and put it in the new boat hut. Look forwards, use the best technology and some new artists.

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