World Cup - NZ World Cup symbol labelled 'a joke'

Wed, 06 Apr 10:50:00 2011

A plan to build a million dollar giant plastic canoe to promote indigenous Maori culture and business at the rugby World Cup has been slammed by local politicians as a "joke" New Zealand can ill afford in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake.

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The 60m cultural pavilion, modelled on a Maori "waka" (war canoe) and made of PVC, costing NZ$2 million, would "provide the cultural heart of the entertainment programme on Auckland's waterfront," Maori Affairs minister Pita Sharples as saying.

"We will showcase the very best of Maori arts, culture, business and enterprise, right in the heart of the Rugby World Cup capital," Sharples said.

An opposition lawmaker described the canoe as "a last-minute, panic-stricken stunt" to include Maori in the September 9-October 23 tournament.

"It's a joke ... I think it's a very shallow, costly idea which should have actually gone out to tender," Labour Party member Shane Jones said.

"If you want to get Maori in the World Cup, the best way to do it is to work with the young people, not actually come up with an inflatable stunt," he said.

"We're living in austere times. I just think it's an absurd idea, and a type of indulgence that ... runs the risk of reducing Maori themselves to having a plastic identity through this plastic party in the middle of the World Cup. It's not good."

New Zealand is recovering from its worst natural disaster in 80 years, the magnitude 6.3 quake which struck Christchurch in February, killing at least 166 people and destroying large parts of the country's second largest city.

The cost of the damage, and that of another quake which struck the city and region last September, has been estimated at around NZ$15 billion and has added pressure to an economy struggling after its longest recession in more than 30 years.

"Can we extravagantly spend that sort of money when (finance minister) Bill English is cutting essential services saying these are things that are just 'nice to have'?" said Labour leader Phil Goff.

"The World Cup is big but if you're going to have something cultural let's make it authentic not something that will become a white elephant afterwards and isn't really authentically Maori."

New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key threw his weight behind the canoe, however, which would be bequeathed to a local Maori tribe, while Sharples retorted that it was a small price to pay relative to the World Cup's overall budget.

"(It) pales into insignificance when you look at the whole budget of NZ $370-odd million," he said.


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