Exploring contribution to Kiwi society

Exploring the positive and unique Maori contributions to New Zealand is the aim of an upcoming symposium in Rotorua this week.

Academics, business leaders and community members will gather tomorrow and Thursday for the "Enhancing Maori Distinctiveness - the Contribution and Opportunity: Ko ta te Maori ake takoha ki te ao" symposium at the Rotorua Convention Centre.

Held by Nga Pae o te Maramatanga and Te Arawa Research Hub, up to 200 people from all over the country are expected to attend.

Nga Pae o te Maramatanga director Charles Royal said the key issue they wanted to consider at the symposium was to explore fully the value of the Maori dimension in New Zealand society.

"The symposium will address crucial questions around enhancing Maori distinctiveness," he said.

"It will address the distinctive contribution that Maori peoples make and may yet make to New Zealand society, culture, economy and overall prosperity."

Professor Royal said they would discuss specific themes to address Maori distinctiveness.

"Within that, we've got some themes, such as what is the value of the Maori language in New Zealand? What is the value of traditional Maori knowledge in the arts arena? Maori knowledge and the sciences - there are a group of scientists in New Zealand interested in this - and iwi creative enterprise. There are a whole host of businesses, organisations and institutions which are distinctive to Maori communities such as kohanga reo, Maori radio and Maori-based tourism businesses."

He said the symposium would discuss how these activities could be valuable to New Zealand.

The programme includes high-profile speakers such as Dr Toby Curtis, Te Arawa kaumatua and educationalist; Erima Henare, chairman of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori; Associate Professor Rawinia Higgins, Te Kawa a Maaui of Victoria University; Traci Houpapa, chairwoman of the Federation of Maori Authorities and director THS & Associates; Ocean Mercier, Te Kawa a Maui of Victoria University; Wetini Mitai-Ngatai, entrepreneur and kapa haka exponent; Associate Professor Poia Rewi, Te Tumu of Otago University; Professor Charles Royal, director of Nga Pae o te Maramatanga; Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Te Pua Wananga ki te Ao of Waikato University; and Professor Michael Walker, Auckland University school of biological sciences.

"The Maori dimension of New Zealand is the most distinctive feature of our nation - our society, culture and economy," Professor Royal said.

"Internationally, New Zealand is often distinguished through the presence of Maori as a way of marking and expressing identity.

"By the end of this event, we will have thoroughly explored the positive and unique Maori contributions that are being made to New Zealand's national development now, and what could be achieved in the future."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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