3 Mar 2015

Insurance costs ongoing issue for marae

8:32 am on 3 March 2015

A marae collective says pā should not insure their treasured wood carvings, to help drive down the high price of insurance - which can cost thousands of dollars.

Te Pakira Marae

Te Pakira Marae Photo: Supplied

The charitable arm of Te Pūmautanga o Te Arawa - which represents 30 marae - suggests marae should spend time recording the history of their taonga - because they are priceless.

Te Arawa Tangata project manager Aneta Morgan said it was exploring ways to help its pā to reduce the cost of cover.

Aneta Morgan

Aneta Morgan Photo: Supplied

One way is a collective agreement with an insurance broker and the Māori finance broker, Iwi Investor.

Ms Morgan said about 11 of its marae had joined up to a collective insurance agreement it had thanks to help from Ngāti Tūwharetoa.

She said they were looking at what marae were seeking cover for.

"We don't need to be insuring our marae for its intrinsic value, especially here in Te Arawa because we have the resources. We have the carvers here, we have the weavers here - to be able to do that work. What we need to be looking at possibly, is how do we capture the knowledge that comes behind that whakairo [carving] and that artwork. And that's really about researching."

A Māori carver, James Rickard, said it was important for marae to keep records of their taonga, not just for insurance.

"All assessments of marae are based on that notion, is that you take photos of the entire house, all the patterns, all the kōwhaiwhai, [and] carvings. As much history as is known about the house. And I guess then you can replicate it. But, in saying that - it needs to be high resolution photographs so you can actually copy exactly what's there. Not replace it with new things that have no kind of meaning."

But James Rickard said marae needed to ensure they had a policy which covered the cost of replacing whakairo.

"A carving is a piece of wood at the end of the day. It burns down, it burns down ... [So] replicating pieces is kinda key to maintaining the history and integrity of those old people [who] carved them."

Aneta Morgan from Te Arawa Tangata encouraged marae to record as much as they could about their taonga, including all the stories associated with it, as well as prayers, songs, and its heritage.

She wanted people to remember that it was not the piece of wood that held their hearts, spirit and their history. She said instead it was the stories that were linked to a piece which were important.

Insurance perspective

Tina Wilson, the chief executive of a Māori finance broker, Iwi Investor, which provides marae insurance advice, said her organisation had been lucky to find good assessors from insurance brokers, and it stuck to them like a paua.

That was because she said there were assessors out there who did not comprehend what tāngata whenua wanted.

"The information that ultimately goes to the underwriter is incorrect and so they are then putting a different type of insurance cover in place because they don't understand what the focus is, and what the needs are for that particular marae. They [assessors] might class it as a public hall, or this, that and the other.

"It is really key to having people who can actually translate between our hau kāinga [people of the marae] and the professionals to make sure that the right messages are getting through to the people who are charging us the fees," she said.

Vedi Angjelinovic, a spokesperson for the insurance broker, Willis, which provides a collective insurance policy to some Tainui marae, believed the classification would factor in a little bit, but he said a collective insurance approach would make premiums cheaper.

He said evaluations at marae had improved.

"We've managed to arrange a collective arrangement for the marae. We've also put up a risk programme, where .... you know we'll individually visit each of the marae and give them advice around managing risk and fire prevention money, that's probably the greatest risk for marae - that's sort of part of the solution that we ultimately offer."

Iwi Investor is encouraging more tangata whenua to consider the prospect of working in the insurance sector to ensure marae receive the best support they can.