The Maori Affairs Minister is defending the almost $2 million of government money going towards a plastic waka-shaped pavilion to help promote Maori culture and business during the Rugby World Cup.
The 60-metre-long and almost 15-metre-high waka will be used to host cultural and business events, as has the giant rugby ball that has been taken around the world to promote the event.[image:1632:half:left]
Ngati Whatua o Orakei estimates the total cost of the Waka Maori project will be $1,988,000; the Crown will contribute just over $1.8 million and the hapu $100,000. The waka will be fully owned by a hapu-owned company.
Critics say the project should have gone out to tender and is an appalling use of taxpayer money.
A trustee for the hapu, Ngarimu Blair, says Waka Maori will help promote brand Maori at the Rugby World Cup and other international events.
However, Labour MP Shane Jones says the idea of paying for a plastic waka during a time of austerity is "out to lunch".
He said if the plan was to promote brand Maori, it should have been done with authenticity and integrity, as the same money could have built a whole fleet of beautiful waka, handcrafted from kauri or totara.[image:1634:half:left]
ACT Party leader Rodney Hide says it is appalling that the Government would give away more than $1.8 million for a waka that the people of New Zealand will not even own.
However, Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples says without the waka, there would be nothing within the $265 million World Cup promotion budget which is authentically Maori.
Dr Sharples says the spending should be seen in the context of other promotions, such as the $4.6 million on the giant rugby ball. The events at the waka pavilion will complement those at the fan zone venue, The Cloud, itself a $10 million venture, he said.
Prime Minister John Key also defended the decision to contribute funds for the waka, saying it is a good use of taxpayers' money.
Mr Key says many of the 85,000 international visitors will want to learn more about Maori culture and business opportunities and the waka is one way to showcase that.
The Green Party says the Waka Maori project should have gone out to tender so other iwi had a chance to be involved.
Don't put cost on telling NZ history - Barnett
Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett told Nine to Noon the plans for the waka are impressive, and the pavilion will be a venue for relating history and the linking of cultures within New Zealand.
Maori political commentator Rawiri Taonui said a PVC waka may sound a bit tacky, but with modern materials it could be impressive.
However, he said on Nine to Noon that Ngati Whatua is only one of 13 tribal groups in the Auckland area and it's shame the others could not have been involved.
It is understood the project could leave Ngati Whatua o Orakei in deficit, and its fall-back position is to sell or demolish the waka early next year.
The chair of Nga Waka, the national forum promoting waka, Robert Gabel says he has confidence the pavilion will uphold the cultural integrity of waka.