When Italian tenor, Andrea Bocelli, touched down at Auckland Airport last week, he described his welcoming ceremony as a wonderful surprise, complete with beautiful music, and the beautiful music he was referring to wasn’t that of the Auckland Philharmonia, the New Zealand Opera, or the Auckland Theatre - the beautiful music he was referring to was a traditional Maori welcome from Te Pou o Mangatawhiri, an historic association that all of Auckland can be proud of.
Back in 1860 when Matutaera Potatau Tawhiao became the second Maori King, he named a small settlement near Meremere, Te Pou o Mangatawhiri – after the river.
Sixty years later, his mokopuna, Princess Te Puea started a kapa haka group at Turangawaewae marae. She later toured with the group to raise funds to restore the marae, and for the building of Mahinarangi.
That concert party travelled far and wide, inspiring interest from Sir Apirana Ngata, who became so interested in the Mahinarangi project that he became directly involved, supervising the tukutuku work, finding a builder to complete the plans and bringing expert carvers from Te Arawa to do the interior carving, and that building was eventually opened in 1929 by the Rt Hon J G Coates, former Prime Minister and Minister of Maori Affairs.
Madam Speaker, the House may wonder what all this has to do with the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Bill, and the answer is - everything and nothing.
Everything, because the history of our national identity, our cultural heritage, our distinctive sites of significance such as at Ngaruawahia, Maungakiekie, Orakei, Rangitoto and the beautiful Waitemata, is intimately connected to the wellbeing of the region we know as Auckland, a history which visitors from all round the world see when they enter our world at Auckland airport.
And I hate to break it to the MP for Western Springs, but despite having 179 different species and over 1300 animals, Auckland Zoo is not the primary reason tourists come to Tamaki.
Aotearoa is the home of the Maori, and kapa haka is the cutting edge of the renaissance of a positive Maori identity, and the nothing part, is that’s how much recognition this Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Bill has given to kapa haka.
You wouldn’t notice it from going through this Bill, but kapa haka has a significant and growing market, and nowhere more so than in Tamaki Makaurau.
The Auckland Regional Kapa Haka Competition always pulls more than 1000 participants, and thousands more spectators, the Manu Korero Regional Speech competitions draw thousands more, the ASB Maori and Polynesian Festival gets up to 100,000 visitors every year, and the Ahurea Kapa Haka competition, and the Primary School Kapa Haka comps pulls ten of thousands of more people.
And that, as my colleague Dr Pita Sharples will tell you, is just the tip of the kumara pile, a mere glimpse into the passionate and incredibly rich world of kapa haka and Maori performing arts, nearly all of them organised by the Tamaki Makaurau Senior Kapa Haka Society, every year.
The Society made a submission to select committee that everyone in this House should read, because it gives an idea of the massive effort people put in to ensure that kapa haka flourishes in the Auckland region, and that visitors to the region can continue to be welcomed and entertained appropriately; indeed it is the Society's view that kapa haka and Mori arts are fast becoming the flagship of Auckland’s cultural expression.
Furthermore, with only three years till the 2011 Rugby World Cup, we know that Maori will be very much the face of Auckland; that kapa haka will be the enduring memory people take home of the mighty All Blacks; and that cultural tourism will help shape our unique regional and national identity.
And just as importantly, we who are charged with ensuring the best interests of the nation are upheld, must appreciate that the promotion and enhancement of Maori performing arts is fundamental to our development as a nation.
Madam Speaker, this issue is not just an Auckland issue. In fact, kapa haka is of huge relevance to my constituents in the Tai Tokerau as well, because my electorate travels down from Te Rerenga Wairua to Te Raki Pae Whenua, and across into Te Atatu, Massey, Henderson and Kelston.
Indeed, Hoani Waititi, long revered in Auckland circles as one of the heartlands of urban kapa haka sits proudly within the Tai Tokerau electorate, as do Waitakere and North Shore cities, - so naturally, the provision of arts, education and community facilities are high on my own priority list, although I don’t know that the 11 amenities given preferential treatment in this Bill are the same ones my constituents from the Tai Tokerau would have voted for.
Not that some of them aren’t doing a fine job of course, like WAIORA for example - Watersafe Auckland, who along with Auckland Surf and Coastguard show a strong commitment to kaupapa Maori and waka ama, WAIORA recently appointed Moana Tamaariki-Pohe to oversee a programme dealing specifically with reducing the alarming 21% of drownings that are Maori.
Being able to swim well is more than just a school subject for Maori – it’s an investment in a future which includes Maori people’s love of the sea, diving, fishing, surfing, swimming, waka ama, waka hourua, you name it, Maori do it – all the way up to the America’s Cup.
Local icon, Angeline Greensill, Maori Party Member of the House of Hauraki-Waikato, who grew up in the area, tells me that the Waitangi Tribunal Report on the Manukau Harbour includes stories of the people of Ihumatao and Mangere catching heaps of flounder with just their feet.
And in a more current setting, another good friend of mine, Derek Fox, Maori Party Member of the House of Ikaroa Rawhiti, who’s known for not being backwards in coming forwards for a free feed of kaimoana, tells me that the Manukau Harbour has provided him and his scurrilous mates with many a choice feed over the years, of kahawai, parore, tarakihi, moki, hapuku, toheroa, pipi, paua, kina, pupu, toitoi, karengo, koura and many other little treasures contained within the Manukau’s inlets, rivers and creeks.
Water safety is a huge part of the life and livelihood of Maori in and around the Auckland region, and we congratulate WAIORA for lobbying long and hard for amendments to this Bill to ensure mana whenua would have a role in the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Bill, through the membership of the Electoral College, which now includes specific representation, “as appropriate to represent the interests of Maori in the Auckland region”.
Finally, I want to return to the issues we have raised consistently across every debate in this House, including the debate on this Bill …
The importance of recognising and including mana whenua and Maori organisations within decision-making bodies such as those which will support Auckland’s Regional Amenities, by including Maori representation on the funding board, and the glaring and outstanding omission from the list of amenities included in this Bill, of the Tamaki Makaurau Senior Kapa Haka Society.
Inclusion of the Tamaki Makaurau Senior Kapa Haka Society is an essential eelement in the renaissance of Maori identity, the participation of Maori across the region, and the value of cultural tourism.
Exclusion of the Society would have led to some strident and justified charges of racism against those who would try to deny Maori their rightful role in the cultural fabric of Tamaki Makaurau, home to the greatest concentration of Maori people in the entire universe.
We’re glad that at the eleventh hour, the Minister says that the Tamaki Makaurau Senior Kapa Haka Society will take their rightful place as one of the lead agencies encompassed in the scope of this Bill, and it is in that light that at the eleventh hour of this debate, the Maori Party, will support this final reading of the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Bill.