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Waka future Maori showpiece for brand New Zealand

Feb 29th, 2012 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, News

RAISING AWARENESS: The so-called plastic waka on Auckland's waterfront. IMAGE: Otago Daily Times

NEW ZEALAND crayfish are being sold as Australian, due to low awareness of the New Zealand brand, says Minister of Maori Affairs Dr Pita Sharples. 

In a speech made on the Wellington Waterfront last week, Dr Sharples said Maori culture should be the point of difference for New Zealand in overseas markets.

The speech was made at a press conference announcing survey results from Waka Maori – the so-called “plastic waka” set up on Auckland waterfront for the rugby world cup.

The $2 million tourist attraction was open for 11 days, and has since been packed away in shipping containers.

The waka contributed $9 million to the Auckland economy, according to a government report.

Nearly 400,000 people visited during the period it was open during the Rugby World Cup tournament.

SETTING SAIL: Pita Sharples talks about the overseas trade possibilities of New Zealand Inc

“Tikanga Māori gives us a huge advantage in the way we promote Aotearoa to the world,” Dr Sharples says.

Labour MP Shane Jones was highly critical of the project, which he labelled a “tapawaka” and said was a gross waste of taxpayer funding.

However, survey results released last week were positive, with 84% of visitors saying the experience was as good as or better than other world cup events.

The majority of funding for the waka came from the government, which contributed $1.9 million dollars, while Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei provided $100,000 and took over management of the project on its completion.

Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei spokesperson Ngarimu Blair says Waka Maori will be taken around the world as a show piece for New Zealand.

“We hope the government and New Zealand businesses will see the waka as a vessel to promote NZ business and culture at major trade shows and events around the world.”

Mr Blair says that Maori culture is the best way to distinguish us from the rest of the world.

“New Zealand finds it hard to stand out at trade shows and events when it does not leverage Maori culture,” he says.

Rugby world cup Maori adviser Paora Ammunson says the event was the perfect example of the kind of positive impact Maori culture can provide as a brand for New Zealand.

Mr Ammunson says businesses are becoming more aware of the extra revenue, which Maori culture can bring in.

“Genuine Maori merchandise commanded a 10% to15% higher price point during the tournament,” he says.

“Maori culture is a powerful cultural symbol. The big challenge is to convert the attention grab,” he says.

Tikanga Maori World Cup merchandise was devised by a national collective of Maori designers based in Porirua.

Maori businesses made up 15% of companies participating in the world cup.

At the start of February the government launched its New Zealand Inc strategy, which is a plan to increase trade with China.

Dr Sharples says  tikanga Maori will play a key role in New Zealand Inc, and that the ministry has been doing its best to encourage a collective approach to marketing New Zealand products.

The New Zealand inc strategy outlines the government’s plan to double two way trade by 2015.

Trade with China reached $12.7 billion last year, as a result of free trade deals.

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is A Journalism Student at Whitireia in Wellington, New Zealand. His specialty areas are digital culture, politics and cyber-crime.
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