Waatea News Update

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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sudden storm washes out Matatini

High winds and torrential rains forced the postponement of all today's performances at Te Matatini, which is being held at Baypark Stadium in Tauranga.

Organisers have rescheduled the remaining 28 kapa haka groups over the next two days.

There will be no separate final, so the teams have one chance to impress the judges.

Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, the chair of Creative New Zealand's Maori are, Te Waka Toi, says it's a disaster for the organisers and the teams.

It's also a blow for the Maori businesses who prepared goods for sale in the festival market, which was also unable to open because of the conditions.


While the National Government has used its first hundred days to introduce a raft bills getting tough on criminals, Maori party co leader Pita Sharples is pushing for the establishment of alternative rehabilitation centres for Maori prisoners.

He says high reoffending make it clear the current monocultural approach isn't working.

Maori make up half the 5000 strong prison population.

Dr Sharples says Maori should have more say not just in the ownership and management of prisons but in finding viable alternatives.

“We are really keen to develop some rehabilitation centres quite alternative to the prison system. I’ve spoken to a panel of judges. They think this is a brilliant idea. I’ve spoken to Corrections. They see it as a good idea. They’re a little bit frightened about making that leap, but I think that time has come. So yes, prisons, we’ve got people in there, we’ve got to do something about it,” Dr Sharples says.


The Race Relations Conciliator has written to South African authorities saying the Maori All Blacks are an expression of ethnic diversity rather than racial discrimination.

The South African Rugby Union has indicated a tour of the republic by a Maori team might breach a South African presidential ban on South African teams playing racially selected teams.

Joris de Bres says the rule reflects South Africa's desire to put the years of apartheid and racial segregation behind it, and there was no thought of its impact on the New Zealand Maori team.

“There is a certain irony in the fact that after all those campaigns No Maori No Tour going back decades, that this should be an obstacle to a New Zealand Maori team playing the Springboks. I think the concept of a game between New Zealand Maori and the Springboks is awesome. I’m sure it will be great and the fact it is planned to be in Soweto. I think it would be supported by the people of Soweto, the people of South Africa and the people of New Zealand,” Mr de Bres says.

He has no problem with ethnic teams as long as national and provincial representative teams remain open to all.


Many of the 55 surviving members of the 28 Maori Battalion have gathered in Whanganui today for their annual reunion.

Among the old comrades remembered at the hui was the man expected to host the reunion, Whanganui elder and battallion association president Jim Takarangi, who died last month.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples says it's an emotional hui, and it's important the soldiers know their service will never be forgotten.

“Oh it's a real honour for me to be associated with these guys because there were three of them on the plane with me and you could just feel their magic,” Dr Sharples says.

His kapa haka roopu, Te Manutake, will include a tribute to the 28 Maori Battalion when it takes the stage at Te Matatini on Sunday.


Over at the national Maori performing arts festival in Tauranga, every team is suddenly a finalist.

High winds this morning blew over marquees and stalls at the Baypark Stadium and drove the heavy rains into the electrical system.

Organisers evacuated the venue and rescheduled performances over the next two days.

Instead of having the top nine teams from the three pools battle it out on Sunday, all 36 teams will be judged on a single half performance.


If it's too wet for kapa haka, it may be time to switch to waka ama.

Hoturoa Kerr from Nga Kaihoe o Aotearoa says January to April is the peak period for the sport, as thousands of young and old paddlers try to get the most out of the traditional outrigger canoes.

He says its popularity is increasing, particularly among Maori communities.

Paddlers are practising for regional secondary school Waka Ama championships next weekend in Auckland and Rotorua.


Efforts to find games for the Maori All Blacks this year have taken another twist, with the South African Rugby Union saying a proposed match up against the Springboks in Soweto could fall foul of that country's rules against playing racially-selected teams.

The latest setback follows the New Zealand Rugby Football Union's stomping on a proposal by former All Black Bill Bush for a privately-organised tour of Europe.

National list MP Paul Quinn, the Maori representative on the NZRFU, says the union had been trying to keep the talks with the South Africans secret until there was something tangible to announce, but Mr Bush's stunt drew unwanted attention to the team's empty schedule.

“My friend Billy comes out with these off the wall ideas and what he isn’t going to do to Maori rugby is not worth doing which is all a bit sad really because all it’s done is created a feeding frenzy of people who bounce around ideas that in the end they will never be able to implement,” Mr Quinn says.

NZRFU management is optimistic the South African concerns about the Maori team can be overcome.


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