Waatea News Update

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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Friday, March 13, 2009

Dawn opening for Ngakau Mahaki

Over the past couple of hours, a new marae in the grounds of Unitec has been opened in the traditional manner.

It has taken master carver Lyonel Grant five years to carve the house, Ngakau Mahaki, which uses construction methods not seen since the 19th century.

Mr Grant says for what is his third major wharenui, he has tried to tell the story of Auckland.

“The korero starts in the land and reflects the people who inhabited the land in the early days in Tamaki Makaurau and then the chronology begins in the back of the house an comes forward and talks about many and varied subjects than include narratives, that include ancestry, that include whakapapa, histories that are relevant to this area,” Mr Grant says.

Another opening will be held later this morning.


Maori are being asked to balance traditional beliefs about the tapu of the body with the welfare of their loved ones.

Kelvin Lynn from Kidney Health New Zealand says a shortage of number of organ donors is putting many Maori lives at risk, because Maori have a higher chance of kidney disease.

Live donations can raise cultural issues, and the number of organs donated after death has been falling because of a reduction in fatal motor accidents.

Dr Lynn says going on donor registers can be difficult decision for Maori.

“Many Maori people have friends or relatives they know have got kidney disease and they want to help them and people consider being a kidney donor and sometimes that raises issues with them in terms of their cultural beliefs and spiritual beliefs. In that situation people from any society need to look at their values as to what is more important, the welfare of their loves ones or the sanctity of their bodies, and they are not easy decisions,” Dr Lynn says.

Maori communities need to talk about the issue and hear from Maori donors or organ recipients.


The Far North District Council is seeking the views of Maori on a proposal for radical restructure of local government in Te Taitokerau.

Iwi liaison officer Te Wihongi says the change could improve representation of Maori, who make up a large percentage of the region's population.

Options being considered include Maori wards on the Far North Council or bringing the region's three district councils and its regional council into a unitary authority, similar to that on the East Coast, which has a similar population mix.

Mr Wihongi says feedback from the first hui at the Ngapuhi Runanga in Kaikohe shows Maori are interested in the proposals.

“If there is general support in that area, the question arises where does Maori fit in to such a process. In terms of unity under one roof is you like, Maori see that as a plus and certainly in their favour,” Mr Wihongi says.


The head of Te Runanga o Moeraki is confident a proposed cement plant in North Otago won't affect nearby Maori rock art.
Environment Court is hearing appeals against Holcim New Zealand's $400 million dollar plant in Weston this week.
Koa Mantell says her runanga is negotiating a memorandum of understanding with Holcim to ensure tapu mahinga kai sites and traditional art are safe.

“We've been concerned about what effect would that have on rock art around. However, they have been able to assure us that they have put a lot of care and concern into the preparation of their project, that it will not have any effect on the rock art,” she says.

Ms Mantell says opponents of the project like the Waiareka Valley Preservation Society are claiming to speak on behalf of tangata whenua, but only the runanga represents Ngai Tahu interests in the area.


A Maori mental health advocate is wants whanau to choose carefully the words they use for people with mental illness.

Philleen McDonald spoke to the Like Minds, Like Mine national hui in Auckland yesterday on the discrimination and stigma she experienced as a tangata whaiora.

She now runs a consultancy specialising in anti-discrimination work and Maori mental health workforce development.

Ms McDonald says while the mainstream is now more positive about accepting a cultural dimension to Maori mental health, some changes need to be made in her own culture.

“There are kupu or words out there that have become derogatory. They didn’t start out that way. Words like porangi and wairangi are used flippantly to describe people who are crazy or mad when in fact those kupu don't mean that,” she says.

Ms McDonald says education about mental health needs to start in Kohanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa Maori to ensure positive attitudes towards tangata whaiora.


Five years in the making, one of Aotearoa's largest art works has been unveiled this morning.

It's Ngakau Mahaki, the meeting house at Auckland polytechnic Unitec's new marae.
Master carver Lyonel Grant has gone back to old construction methods, so the carvings are structural elements rather then being just added to a pre-built shell.

He says the wood for the carvings came out of the Minginui Forest in early 2003, and a small team has been working on it ever since.

“The optimum would have been to have a carving class based at Unitec that drags people in and brings them on but in fact the level we’re trying to operate on with this marae is not a classroom, it’s pitched at being the very best it can be, not that students can’t do that, but to operate that way I’ll need 10 years, 15 years, 20 years,” he says.

Lyonel Grant has also built wharenui in Tokoroa and at Waiariki Polytechnic in Rotorua.


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