$2m waka open for only 11 days

By Bernard Orsman

An artist's impression of the waterfront waka, which will host performances, events and an exhibition of Maori rugby. Photo / Supplied
An artist's impression of the waterfront waka, which will host performances, events and an exhibition of Maori rugby. Photo / Supplied

A giant waka costing $2 million on Auckland's waterfront for the Rugby World Cup will be open only for the last 11 days of the tournament.

Maori leaders say they do not want to distract from other events, but the Herald understands there is only enough money for a limited opening.

The vessel is costing $900,000 to build, leaving a budget of $1.1 million to give visitors a taste of traditional and contemporary Maori culture.

Te Puni Kokiri is paying $800,000 towards construction and local iwi Ngati Whatua o Orakei is paying the remaining $100,000. The running costs are split between the Ministry of Culture and Heritage ($800,000) and Te Puni Kokiri ($300,000).

The budget includes a fitout of the 75m structure, catering and bar facilities, a $300,000 entertainment programme and $80,000 for security.

Criticism of the waka and the tough economic climate have not helped the project, which has been a joint effort by the Government - with strong backing from Prime Minister John Key - and Ngati Whatua.

Last night, Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples said there were a lot of reasons why the waka would be open for only 11 days, including a decision not to distract from other events around the country and to make a big impact at the end of the six-week tournament. "You can call it a lost opportunity. Everyone is saying it is a waste of time ... [but] it will outshine the Cloud," said Dr Sharples.

Ngati Whatua project manager Renata Blair said the local iwi wanted people to visit the waka and "be wowed by who we are".

"We are letting the rest of the country with all their activities take the limelight and then the last two weeks all the world is going to point towards Auckland," Mr Blair said.

Speaking at a function in Auckland to launch the programme for "Waka Maori", Dr Sharples said the waka was a bold statement that clearly differentiated Tamaki-Makaurau (Auckland) from other cities and showed to the rest of the world New Zealand was comfortable in its diversity.

The waka is being assembled at a warehouse in Penrose before being dismantled and then reassembled at Te Wero Island at the Viaduct Harbour.

The structure is 16m high at the tail fin, has 500sq m of floorspace and can hold 400 people. It is being made of New Zealand laminated timber and covered with a state-of-the-art tension membrane similar to that on the Cloud.

Each day it is open will begin with a powhiri and include five performances, as well as active displays and an exhibition of Maori rugby. Maori All Blacks, moko artists, wood and greenstone carving will be other attractions.

The waka has been criticised as a waste of money. Act MP Rodney Hide said to "give away $1.9 million to have a waka that the people of New Zealand won't even own is appalling".

- NZ Herald

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