24 Aug 2012

Canoe-building skills could benefit Easter Islanders

10:00 am on 24 August 2012

Chile's ambassador to New Zealand says a student exchange with Maori will help to keep the traditional culture of indigenous Easter Islanders alive.

Two double-hulled waka left Auckland last week for Easter Island, or Rapanui, in a collaboration between the Chilean government and the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua.

The Waka Tapu expedition aims to complete the last leg of the Polynesian triangle and retrace the voyages of Pacific ancestors.

The envoy, Isauro Torres, says language is just one of many similarities between the Rapanui and Maori cultures, so it makes sense for them to learn from each other.

He says the idea came to him when he visited the institute in Rotorua and saw people building Maori canoes.

Mr Torres says Easter Island has been deforested over the centuries and Rapanui people have almost lost their waka-building skills. He says it will be a good thing for them to learn from their Maori cousins.