19 Feb 2015

Artist demands cliff carving royalties

8:44 pm on 19 February 2015

A Maori artist from Taupo is threatening to take tourism operators to court if they don't pay him royalties for visiting a stone sculpture he carved 30 years ago.

The stone sculpture on Lake Taupo carved by Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell.

Sculpture carved by Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell Photo: QFSE / CC BY-SA 3.0 NZ

The 20-metre high Maori carving of a face staring out of the rock cliffs of Mine Bay is on the north-west side of the lake.

The carving is a representation of Ngatoroirangi, the navigator and high priest who - according to Maori legend - guided the people of Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa to the Taupo area.

The carving caused controversy when it was first created in the late '70s and that controversy continues today.

Artist Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell said when tourism operators take visitors there they give them erroneous information about the Maori face he carved.

He said those tourism operators, which he didn't want to name, don't know the history because they haven't asked him.

Mr Whakataka-Brightwell said he felt it was a ploy by them because they want to exclude him so that they have free access to it, to make money off it.

He said from now on he wanted the tourism operators to pay him a royalty or he would take them to court.

A spokesperson for the paramount chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa, Sir Tumu Te Heu Heu, did not want to comment specifically on the carving, saying there were ongoing discussions around all aspects of the lake's use as part of a treaty claim.

They said the tribe would like to speak with Mr Whakataka-Brightwell directly about his concerns.

The Taupo District Council also declined to comment.

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