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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Monday, September 06, 2010

Ngai Tahu property withstands quake

The head of Ngai Tahu Property says the tribe’s Christchurch portfolio seems to have come through the earthquake without major damage.

As part of its treaty settlement Ngai Tahu ended up as the landlord for several government agencies and also developed commercial properties and the new Christchurch Civic Centre.

Tony Sewell says the weekend was spent checking properties.

“My team was out first thing in the morning and they had a look at our shopping centre, Tower Junction, and everything was OK there. They looked at the law courts in Christchurch, everything was fine there, police station, civic building, things are ok, it’s just a bit of minor damage and the furniture and things thrown around but no doubt by the end of the week we will be back in some form of order and life will go on,” Mr Sewell says.


Maori and Christchurch rugby legend Bill Bush thought he was having a bad dream until the reality of the earthquake hit home.

The hard man of All Black and Maori front row says it reminded him of being in Italy in 1979 when an earthquake destroyed many buildings in Naples.

He says his heart was saddened when he went into the centre of Christchurch on Saturday morning to city to help out saw the damage done to many of the old buildings.

“It was quite frightening to see, I love this city, it’s a beautiful city, but it’s scarred now with all the debris from particularly the old buildings that’s come down, it’s sad actually,” Mr Bush says.

He praised new building codes which meant houses such as his own 6 year old villa in Belfast 15 minutes north of the city survived unscathed.


The Minister of Maori Affairs is in China this week looking for openings for Maori business.

Pita Sharples is taking 15 Maori business leaders to visit Beijing, Shanghai and Guizhou.

He says they are calling the visit Te Ara ki Haina, because they believe the cultural relationships formed will open up pathways for trade and business.

“China is now our second largest partner for exporting, although 60 percent in and 40 percent out, we’ve got to increase the out part to balance up and grow the economy here because by growing the economy we create jobs. I’m sure a number of ventures we’re going out to China with will yield fruit later on,” Dr Sharples says.

After visiting the World Expo in Shanghai, Dr Sharples will help bless and open the massive carved waharoa or gateway at the Baoshan Folk Arts Museum, which has been gifted by New Zealand to the people of China after being worked on throughout the expo.


Ngai Tahu chair Mark Solomon says the tribe needs to be at the table when plans are made for rebuilding Christchurch in the wake of Saturday morning’s devastating earthquake.

Mr Solomon says despite its violence, his own Maori Affairs-built home came through the quake without a crack.

But with large parts of the city and its infrastructure needing rebuilding, he says the tribe has much it can contribute.

“Definitely believe we will be invited to the table, Of course we have to be, we’re part of the community. I think we’ve got a long road ahead. There’s a lot of damage. I think there are opportunities of us all working together as a community,” Mr Solomon says.

The curfew of inner Christchurch means Ngai Tahu Runanga staff won’t be able to get to the office today, but he hopes they can be back at their desks as soon as possible.


Te Tai Tonga MP Rahui Katene says Christchurch’s marae are on standby if they are needed for emergency accommodation in the wake of the earthquake.

Mrs Katene had a quick inspection of the city over the weekend.

She says the authorities have moved quickly to provide for people whose homes were too damaged to stay in, and Maori are ready to play their part.

“Certainly are opening up more what they’re calling welfare centres for people to stay and they are expecting more will be needed over the next few days as people realise hey cannot keep staying in their damaged houses. If the marae are needed, they certainly look in a condition to be able to be used,” Mrs Katene says.


Even amongst the terror of the Christchurch earthquake and its aftershocks, there were brighter moments.

One of these was when Canterbury University Maori studies head Rawiri Taonui discovered his seven month old daughter had slept through the upheaval, including the chimney falling in.

He says thanks were given to the Maori god of earthquakes.

“She slept all the way through to 9 o’clock, just woke up and wondered where her bottle was. We’re going to christen her at Te Unga Waka in October in the second week of October so we’ve decided to add Ruaumoko as one of her middle names, it seems appropriate,” Mr Taonui says.

He was heartened at the way neighbours pitched in and helped each other.


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