Friday, July 1, 2011

The close of a long chapter

It has finally arrived!  Tomorrow the Waitangi Tribunal releases its decision on the 262nd claim it has received since its inception in 1975.  The claim was lodged in 1991 by six individuals on behalf of six Maori iwi (tribes).  It’s been 20 years and 5 of the originial 6 claimants have passed away.  The sole survivor is Saana Murray from Ngati Kuri.  It promises to be an emotional day.

The ceremony tomorrow is being held at Roma Marae (meeting house), Ahipara in Northland.  It starts with a Powhiri (welcome) at 11:00am for the Waitangi Tribunal, the Crown and other invited guests.

The report handover ceremony starts at noon.  A local Kaumatua (elder) will deliver a Karakia Timatanga (opening prayer).  Saana Murray herself will speak on behalf of Ngati Kuri.  The Waitangi Tribunal Director will present a statement of findings.  Representatives from each of the remaining Iwi will speak.  Each claimant Iwi will then be presented with a copy of the 1,000 page report.  A local Kaumatua will perform a Karakia Whakamutunga (closing prayer).

A Hakari (feast) is scheduled for 2:00pm then a Poroporoaki (eulogy) at 3:30pm.

The report is not yet public.  Copies were given to local media earlier this week on the understanding that the report was embargoed until the following week.  However, one story has already been published today by the media outlining the Waitangi Tribunal recommendations.

I will wait and read the report myself rather than rely on the article.  The article does note that one of the recommendations is to set up a Maori advisory committee to work with the Intellectual Property of New Zealand (IPONZ).  The suggestion is that IPONZ will have the power to refuse patents that unduly interfere with relationships between kaitiaki (Maori) and taonga (precious things).

The New Zealand Patents Bill 2008 isn’t too far off the mark.  It will establish a Maori advisory committee that will advise IPONZ on request whether an invention appears to be derived from Maori traditional knowledge or from indigenous plants or animals.  If an invention appears so derived, the committee will advise whether the commercial exploitation of that invention is likely to be contrary to Māori values.

In any event, tomorrow marks the end of a long chapter in the lives of these claimants and their families.

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