COMMENT:

So Auckland is looking at its own version of the Statue of Liberty to stand tall at Bastion Point.

Papatūānuku, the Earth Mother, as proposed by local iwi, would welcome visitors to Auckland Harbour, so the claim goes, standing 30-50 metres tall on the headland.

Auckland's Mayor Phil Goff described it as having the potential to be an iconic symbol for Auckland.

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But how many iconic symbols does Auckland need?

The proposed design for the statue on Bastion Point. Image / Animation Research
The proposed design for the statue on Bastion Point. Image / Animation Research

I thought we already had that with the Sky Tower and One Tree Hill, but obviously not.

Auckland Council has approved one million dollars for initial design and development.

I'm all for beautiful landmarks and eye candy for tourists - and even better if it's showcasing Māori culture and enhances nationhood - but how much is this costing beyond the $1m for initial design?

A few million more I'm betting.

And how much of it will be funded by council, the same council that just handed us a fuel tax? How much will be funded by iwi?

And more to the point, is pouring this much money into a statue the right place for these funds?

You only need to drive through the Orakei area to see the pockets of state housing, the diversity of the living standards and the struggle for many Māori in that area of Auckland alone.

We are acutely aware of our stats in this country for Māori regarding poverty-based illnesses, housing inequality, abuse, socio-economic deprivation and so on.

I just wonder whether, if money is going to be put aside to promote nationhood and Māori culture, it may be better spent actually going to the people who really need it?

And how is it the council can easily drum up a million dollars for a design phase of a statue, and hand that money out unilaterally without any consultation, yet run a city which is full of families unable to heat their homes, afford healthy food, visit the doctor, or buy warm clothes?

Our PM, in her five days at Waitangi this year, went to great lengths to point out the disturbing over-representation of Māori in many of our statistics regarding poverty, health, smoking, incarceration, home ownership.

She said we needed to tackle these areas and start addressing the inequality.

Are we doing that?

Have we made any progress yet?

I think it makes more sense to start seeing some gains in those areas, start helping those at the coal face, laying the foundations, education and groundwork needed to bring about real and positive change - and perhaps then, and only then, we could look at building a big statue.