I feel obligated to defend the decision to award $1.8m to Ngati Whatua to build a plastic waka for the Rugby World Cup. However, I’ll look at it both ways.
Firstly, there should be a Maori presence during the RWC. Secondly, I do not buy the criticism that the waka is “plastic” – in both a literal and figurative sense. The waka will serve as a testament to the tangata whenua (Ngati Whatua) and a symbolic tribute to the Maori culture. The fact that the waka will be plastic will probably make no difference, aesthetically speaking. Thirdly, BB points out:
After all there are by our reckoning a fair few Maori in the All Black Team. They have adopted a traditional Haka as their own. The World Cup imagery is laced with a modern take on traditional Maori designs.
Fourthly, in the scheme of things, $2m is utterly inconsequential. Fifthly, as far as we know the waka will generate revenue.
However, having said all of that I think Gordon Campbell makes an excellent point:
Reportedly, the related costs from the management, transport and storage of the waka mean that the entire enterprise is being budgeted – right from the outset – to lose money. Which raises the interesting prospect of whether the giant plastic waka has also been created from the outset as a tax write-off.
Admittedly, this is less than ideal. Consider this as well:
The whole episode with the plastic waka is not a good look for Maori entrepreneurship. Surely, someone in the Maori bureaucracy must have asked whether the most visible icon of Maori culture related to the Rugby World Cup should be a 60 metre long plastic canoe
I tend to agree with this.
Shane Jones take on this is pretty cringe worthy, yet he makes a number of valid points. He is right in pointing out that it is merely a stunt, an election year sop. However, he is wrong in writing it off completely. The waka will serve well as an attraction and will most certainly be utilised. The question though is will it be sustainable.
I'll end by pointing out that this issue is such an easy target. An incredibly easy target. The media knows Maori issues lead well and can be sustained across several new cycles. And the public love it.