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Nats wrong on value of hiki tapu, says Goff

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Media Statement

20 February 2004

Nats wrong on value of hiki tapu, says Goff

Foreign Minister Phil Goff says the National Party's new-found aversion to Maori culture is blinding them to the value of promoting New Zealand's unique culture in important overseas markets.

National's Maori Affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee said at the weekend that he wants an end to the Foreign Ministry's policy of holding hiki tapu ceremonies at the opening of new diplomatic premises overseas.

"As well as the rank hypocrisy of the Opposition's criticism, given that National repeatedly used hiki tapu ceremonies for embassy openings in the 1990s, they fail to realise that it gives New Zealand international exposure that money cannot buy," Mr Goff said.

"The opening of our embassy in Brazil, in 2001, is a perfect example of the value of associating Maori culture with aspects of our diplomatic work.

"Instead of just another ordinary event with worthy but dull speeches of no interest to media, the cultural dimension to the opening provided the point of difference that brought New Zealand to the attention of a country that has enormous potential as a market for our goods and services.

"Coverage of the opening was estimated to have brought New Zealand to the attention of over 50 million Brazilians.

"Photos of the President performing a hongi with members of the Maori cultural group were carried on the front page of all the major national newspapers and most provincial papers, and on television news.

"A story about hongi featured extensively on Brazil's most-watched TV magazine show, and follow-ups appeared in all the major weekly papers and magazines.

"New Zealand enjoyed similar exposure in Japan when gateway carvings at the embassy were opened. A television network watched by eight million covered the event, as did a leading daily newspaper with a circulation of three million.

"This sort of coverage is of immense value. To turn our back on the uniqueness of Maori culture not only denies an important part of our culture, it would also deny New Zealand of media coverage of events like embassy openings, which is enormously valuable to us in publicity and financial terms," Mr Goff said.


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