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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Gang moko ban sets unhealthy precedent

What is really unwelcome in Wanganui... the gang tattoo or the colour of the skin underneath it... that's the question troubling a leading ta moko artist following the introduction to Parliament of legislation to ban gang insignia in the city.

Mark Kopua who belongs to Te Uhi a Mataora ... the national collective of ta moko artists... says specific anti-social behaviour not tattoo design should determine who is excluded from Wanganui.

Mark Kopua from Ngati Ira, Te Aitanga a Hauiti and Ngati Porou who has used ta moko to cover old gang tattoos as people move into new phases of their lives says unlike clothing tattoos are hard to remove... so human rights issues need to be considered carefully.

“In the bill
 it needs to clearly define areas around the wearing off tattoo because some of them are very cultural and part of your heritage as opposed to just popped up in the last 30 or so years. You don’t want to start shifting across and saying just because you’re wearing a turban, now we can’t have you in the streets of Wanganui or just because you’ve got a red dot on your forehead, we can’t have you on the streets of Wanganui
,” Mr Kopua says.

Parliament's law and order select committee has reported the Wanganui District Council (Prohibition of Gang Insignia) Bill back to the House with the recommendation that it be passed. The decision to include tattoos was made by Labour and NZ First while National did not agree.


Ngati Pahauwera negotiators have worked furiously over the past four months to be ready to sign an Agreement in Principle yesterday for their Treaty of Waitangi claim.

The Mohaka-based iwi yesterday marked an important milestone towards treaty settlement for both historical claims and seabed and foreshore interests.

The settlement package includes co-management of the Mohaka, Waikari and Waihua Rivers and vesting of 12 conservation sites including Te Heru o Tureia conservation area currently managed by the Department of Conservation.

Negotiator Tom Gemmell says Ngati Pahauwera have been busy not only working with the Crown but their own people.

"From May through to now we’ve been working very well and very quickly with the Crown representatives, working for three days ever second week and during the interim period we’re meeting with our people wherever they might be. We’ve not long concluded a trip around the motu reporting back to our people over the acceptability of a wise settlement,"Mr Gemmell says.

The hard work followed a Waitangi Tribunal report which deemed the iwi 'landless'.


Ngai Tahu Maori are being urged to find out their Maori land entitlements with an open day today to encourage them to do so.

The Ngai Tahu Maori Law Centre opened in 1993 and has dealt with over 150 inquiries a year from Maori wanting to know if their whakapapa corresponds with the Maori land bank but manager Joy Smith says many who may have land entitlement haven't visited.

“We have a very large geographical area that we cover. We can check if they have any Maori land or if they have any ancestors and they are entitled to succeed to that Maori land. They may not be able to come along because they live in Christchurch or out of Dunedin but they can definitely contact us,” Ms Smith says.

The free service based in Dunedin has outreach clinics in Invercargill and Christchurch servicing almost the entire South Island.


The bill to ban gang insignia from Wanganui is a step closer and now includes gang tattoos but excludes ta moko.

Parliament's law and order select committee has reported the Wanganui District Council (Prohibition of Gang Insignia) Bill back to the House with the recommendation that it be passed.

The decision to include tattoos was made by Labour and NZ First but National opposed it.

However Ngati Ira, Te Aitanga a Hauiti and Ngati Porou carver and ta moko artist Mark Kopua says with ta moko is based on the whakapapa of the wearer and the koru form often dominant it could be hard for the uninitiated to tell ta moko and modern gang tattoos apart.

“I think initially it's going to be difficult to distinguish them and I think the only thing that may actually help you distinguish is the behaviour of the wearer,” Mr Kopua says.

The bill's future is in the hands of the next Parliament, but with support from both major parties, it is likely to progress in some form.


A putea built up over 70 years is allowing the Waitangi National Trust to wipe entry fees to the Treaty grounds for New Zealand residents.

Michael Hooper, a spokesperson for the Trust, says it’s hoping to boost the number of New Zealanders who visit the site where the Treaty of Waitangi was drafted, debated and first signed.

He says the removal of entry fee for New Zealand residents is just one step in a broader programme.

“For example we're now opening an hour earlier in the morning, closing an hour later at night, getting more people through, providing more shows, particularly contemporary Maori theatre and drama and song and I think that Waitangi will become a real centre for the revival and the continuation of oral tradition,” Mr Hooper says.

New Zealand residents will need to produce some form of id, like a drivers licence, to gain free entry to the grounds.


The move to make access to the treaty grounds free is being welcomed by one Northlander.

Shane Jones says getting rid of the entry fee for New Zealand residents will encourage Kiwis to visit the significant historic site.

However the Labour list MP is concerned the National Trust is also sticking with its plans for a $14 million visitors centre.

He says the new structure will not sit well on the Waitangi site.

“That space at Waitangi remains hallowed ground. If kiwis can go an visit there for free to enjoy the ambience and the heritage of where the treaty was signed, that’s very positive, but that space must not be blighted by an unnecessarily intrusive and carbuncle-like glass structure,” Mr Jones says.

Michael Hooper from the Waitangi National Trust says the new visitors centre is still at the consenting stage... and is receiving a lot of support.


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