'Tupperwaka' sails into sea of criticism

By Yvonne Tahana

Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples . Photo / Mark Mitchell
Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples . Photo / Mark Mitchell

The $2 million taxpayer-funded plastic waka which Ngati Whatua will own after the Rugby World Cup has been called a "nauseating" government gift.

But a hapu representative said neither the Government nor Auckland Council wanted to keep the waka after the tournament.

Both Ngati Whatua o Orakei and Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples hit out at criticism yesterday that the 60-metre temporary structure was a poor use of taxpayer dollars.

Its purpose was to promote Maori business, contemporary and traditional arts and provide free public entertainment over 17 days, Dr Sharples said.

Labour associate Maori affairs spokesman Shane Jones likened the structure to plastic kitchenware, dubbing it "tupperwaka" in the House.

"A $2 million gift to a hapu is nauseating. I know of no example where a plastic faux waka cost $120,000 a day and has then been passed over as a gift.

"If John Key wants to give this hapu a gift, then let's start giving gifts to all the Maoris in Auckland."

Hapu heritage manager Ngarimu Blair said the pavilion would have wide economic benefits, including matching invited iwi with investors and providing tourists with a unique experience.

"We needed to promote Maori so we're just not a 90-second haka before an All Blacks game.

"This spend will have great value to promote the Maori economy and also New Zealand in terms of defining it as a unique destination."

A site for the structure was yet to be pinned down, Mr Blair said. However, Dr Sharples said it would probably be near Party Central's "cloud" structure taking shape on Queens Wharf.

Mr Blair said there was reluctance from the Crown and Auckland Council to take public ownership of the waka.

"So we did, and there's costs associated with that."

An Auckland Council spokesman, who did not want to be named, said the council had been approached by Dr Sharples' office to take ownership of the waka. The minister's office wanted an immediate decision but was told the matter would have to go through an approval process. The council heard no more after that.

Finance Minister Bill English said the Government's penny-pinching in other areas did not extend to the Rugby World Cup. "We have a strong commitment to taking the opportunity of the World Cup to market New Zealand."

Mr English said about three-quarters of the cost would come from cuts to other areas rather than new funding.

Prime Minister John Key backed the waka, saying it would be owned by Ngati Whatua after the World Cup because "the Government doesn't have a long-term use for it".

b>PLASTIC FANTASTIC

Dimensions: 60 metres long, 14 metres wide.

Room for: 1000 standing, 200 seated for dinner.

Cost to build: $900,000.

Cost to taxpayers to run for 17 days: $1 million.

Contribution of Ngati Whatua o Orakei: $100,000.

- NZ Herald

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