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Matariki - Safeguarding NZ’s Cultural Heritage

Media Release from UNESCO NZ
For 12 June 2002

Matariki - Safeguarding New Zealand’s Cultural Heritage

The celebration of Matariki, the Maori New Year focuses attention on the importance of cultural heritage preservation which is the goal of the 2002 United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage according to UNESCO NZ Chair, Margaret Austin.

The Year for Cultural Heritage was proclaimed by the United Nations following the destruction of the ancient Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan last year. It aims to stimulate countries to undertake significant activities and measures to safeguard their heritage.

UNESCO is the United Nations agency with responsibility for protecting, safeguarding and enhancing the world’s heritage through its Culture Programme. It has been designated as the lead agency for the 2002 United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage.

Mrs Austin says the launch of Matariki, which is gathering so much attention this year can be seen as part of New Zealand’s effort to meet United Nations objectives on cultural heritage.

“It acknowledges the indigenous calendar and the traditional knowledge of Maori. It is important for this country as a whole that events such as this that are unique to this country are safeguarded and kept alive,” she says.

“In the most general sense, cultural heritage is anything that people value and want to pass on to subsequent generations. Cultural heritage is about stories – the stories we tell to imbue objects, practices and beliefs with meaning and vitality.”

As a result, Margaret Austin says it can be seen that there are a great range of cultural heritage activities taking place in New Zealand from Matariki at the national level, to the preservation of historic buildings within the regions, to the recording of the stories of old soldiers at an individual level...

The Maori New Year is being celebrated and formally launched at a function at Te Papa (Thursday 12 June 6pm) hosted by the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO in association with Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and Te Taura Whiri (the Maori Language Commission). Language is obviously a key component of cultural heritage and the Matariki celebration fittingly takes place on the eve of the Maori Language Conference that starts at Te Papa on Thursday.

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO has produced an information kit for media on Cultural Heritage, which will be launched at the Te Papa function. It provides background information on cultural heritage and United Nations efforts in this regard, such as the World Heritage Lists. It also provides information about some of the cultural heritage activities taking place in New Zealand which could provide angles for stories about the Year and the concept of cultural heritage preservation. This Kit is available by email or post from: or UNESCO NZ, PO Box 1666 Wellington
Tel: (04) 499 1004


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