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Legal protection sought to preserve haka in Germany

John Boynton, Te Manu Korihi Reporter

A Māori cultural advisor is looking at taking legal action to protect the haka in Germany.

traditionally-dressed haka performers on a platform
stage in a sumptuous room

Ngāti Rānana perform a haka for the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall Photo: Courtesy Clarence House / Richard Lewis

Kane Mutu Harnett is based in Denmark and said people in Germany teaching the haka were tarnishing the reputation of Māori culture.

He is looking for legal protection for the haka in Germany.

"Different people have looked at it in different ways over the last four of five years - just to protect the amazing work that our whānau is doing here in Europe and also all around the world."

Many services have popped up abroad - run by Māori and non-Māori - offering haka workshops to corporate clients.

Mr Mutu Harnett is a cultural advisor and offers his own kapa haka service.

But, he has had enough of seeing unqualified haka tutors ripping off and misusing the haka for money.



Mr Mutu Harnett's written to two German law firms to find out the legal options for stopping it.

"Whatever remedies are required to actually ensure that what we do produce and give to the world is accurate, is honest and is authentic."

However western ideas of legal protections didn't always work in indigenous peoples' favour, he said.

When musician Moana Maniapoto went to Germany to perform several years ago she was threatened with a $100,000 lawsuit because someone had trademarked her name.

"The person who had trademarked the name was completely within their legal rights - because they were acting within that IP (intellectual property system).

"But me or any other Polynesian who wanted to use the name couldn't do anything about it."

Ms Maniapoto was even advised to trademark the name Moana in Austria, Italy and Switzerland.

"I knew of another Moana who was performing there and I didn't want to interfere with her rights," she said.

"I also didn't want to buy into this regime that creates an ownership in a name that has a huge whakapapa to Polynesia."

In the end she hastily re-named her band Moana and the Tribe in Germany.

Ms Maniapoto said the continued lack of protection for Māori intellectual property was glaring.

"We see it all the time, different names, different symbols and designs being pilfered by different companies to market their goods."

Intellectual property lawyer Lynell Huria said the haka Ka Mate was protected through the Haka Ka Mate Attribution Act 2014.

However, Ms Huria said this only offered some protection in New Zealand.

"Internationally, at this stage, there is no protection for cultural heritage and traditional knowledge so it's very difficult to stop any misuse of our culture."

Ms Huria isn't an expert in German law - but she said protecting the haka through international law was difficult.

"The laws are not traditionally representative of indigenous peoples' interest and rights - and that's a well-recognised fact across all areas of our law."

Ms Huria said the court of public opinion was one of the best tools in ensuring Māori taonga were not misappropriated.


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