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The announcement of Rugby World Cup survey results by the Minister of Maori Affairs Dr Pita Sharples shows local people visited Waka Maori in large numbers alongside international visitors, and confirms there is interest in Maori culture among citizens of Auckland according to Ngati Whatua o Orakei.
Ngati Whatua o Orakei Maori Trust Board Chairman Grant Hawke says it is time for Auckland Council and central government to support the establishment of a Maori and Polynesian cultural centre on Auckland’s waterfront, the Waitemata.
“Tourism research shows visitors from overseas seek out Maori culture when they come to New Zealand. What Waka Maori showed was that local people also find the culture interesting. They want to experience more and feel part of the indigenous culture of this country.”
Clickers at entry points showed 397,000 people went through the whole event including the waka and artisans village over 10 days which is 10,000 more than went through the giant rugby ball over four years. The report to government indicates $9 million of direct economic benefit from the Waka Maori project.
Grant Hawke says without Waka Maori visitors to Auckland for the Rugby World Cup would have had little direct contact with Maori culture and little opportunity to interact with Maori in Auckland and to learn from them about their way of life.
He says the experience of Waka Maori was positive for Ngati Whatua and allowed the iwi to extend manaaki or traditional hospitality to people who come into the central Auckland area.
“Around 70 Ngati Whatua people were employed in construction, hosting guests, food and beverage, security, project management, and event organisation.
“We have an established reputation for putting on well run events so Waka Maori was a relatively straight forward event to run even with the significant numbers of people that came through.
“The constant flow of people going through the waka and watching the various shows had to be carefully managed but the team did extremely well.”
He says the waka received a significant amount of positive feedback which was appreciated.
“Waka Maori was also one of few places where visitors could interact with former and current All Blacks.
“We had parents bringing their children in several times to get autographs from the different rugby players that came through each day. Former players such as Kees Meeuws, Ian Jones, Hika Reid, Adrian Cashmore, Michael Jones, Liam Messum and Buck Shelford were very generous with their time. Several of the current All Blacks came through and spent time watching the entertainment.”
At one stage, 23 former All Blacks or Maori All Blacks were in the waka.