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Tūwharetoa Chief appointed World Heritage Chair

16 July 2006 Media Statement

Ngāti Tūwharetoa Paramount Chief appointed World Heritage Chair

Tumu te Heuheu (Te Heuheu Tūkino VIII), Paramount Chief of Ngāti Tūwharetoa, has been named the new Chair of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, Prime Minister Helen Clark announced today.

The World Heritage Committee has been meeting in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, since 8 July for its 30th Ordinary Session. Tumu te Heuheu's appointment was announced at the completion of this Session today.

"I congratulate Tumu te Heuheu on this momentous achievement," Helen Clark said.

"The UNESCO World Heritage Committee is an extremely important international conservation organisation. It chooses, funds and monitors the caring of World Heritage Areas, some of the planet's most special places."

Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia said Mr te Heuheu's selection was a fantastic milestone for Maori, and one where history had come full circle.

"Tumu te Heuheu's ancestor, Horonuku Pātātai (Te Heuheu Tūkino IV) gifted the mountains to the south of Lake Taupo to the New Zealand government in 1887 for a national park.

"Those mountains - Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu were transferred to the Crown on 23 September 1887. Today, the original 2,640 hectares is now approximately 79,598 hectares and known throughout the nation and world as Tongariro National Park," Mr Horomia said.

Tongariro was the first national park formed in New Zealand, the fourth in the world, and the first national park in the world to be gifted by a country's indigenous people.

"Where history comes full circle is that Tongariro became the first property to be inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1993," Mr Horomia said.

Conservation Minister Chris Carter said Mr te Heuheu's achievement was timely because New Zealand was to host the next session of the World Heritage Committee in Christchurch in July 2007.

"This will be a major event for New Zealand, spanning nine days and drawing approximately 600 participants and observers from the 178 State Parties to the World Heritage Convention," Mr Carter said.

"Having such a prominent New Zealander in the chair at the meeting will further enhance our country's profile."

ENDS

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