28 Jun 2013

Chile looks to Maori to empower its indigenous people

6:36 am on 28 June 2013

The Chilean ambassador to New Zealand says his government in Santiago wants to empower its indigenous communities and is looking at how Maori and Pakeha work together as a model it can use with the Mapuche people.

In recent years the Chilean Government has tried to redress some of the inequities of the past, and in 1993 passed a law to officially recognise the Mapuche as one of its nine indigenous groups.

Isauro Torres said there are so many Maori success stories that Chile can use as a way for its tangata whenua to move forward.

He said the government is eager to learn from New Zealand's model of racial equality and what Maori have achieved in the political system.

Mr Torres said that when a Mapuche delegation recently visited New Zealand they were overwhelmed with the estimated $35 billion Maori economy and he has invited Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples to talk about how Maori are doing business within New Zealand and abroad.

He said the Chilean government was impressed with the conversations it had with Traci Houpapa of the Federation of Maori Authorities who spoke about Maori economic development with different sectors in Chile.

Ms Houpapa toured with Prime Minister John Key earlier this year when he made a visit to some Latin American countries.

In August, Whale Watch Kaikoura, which is Ngai Tahu owned and operated, will visit Chile and give the government and the Mapuche people ideas on how they can boost the indigenous tourism sector which only accounts for about 1% of the country's tourism revenue.

The Mapuche population is estimated to be around 1.7 million, or 10% of Chile's total population.

However, Census data in Chile suggests about 40% of the total population is mixed with other indigenous influences.