5 Minutes with Wena

2018-04-15_Coote_NZMT_186My name is Wena Harawira, I am of Tūhoe, Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Ranginui descent.

I’m the Master of Ceremonies, and my chief role is to communicate with delegates and keep things flowing smoothly. Sounds easy but getting 300 people seated in a timely way for instance, can be a challenge. I usually do a pao – it’s an attention grabber!

What about the Summit are you most looking forward to?
Three guests are involved in issues around protecting sacred lands: Norbu Tenzing (Mt Everest), Ben Sherman (Standing Rock) and Sammy Wilson (Uluru). How do they find the balance between cultural imperatives and commercial ventures such as tourism which provides much needed income for their people? Are there compromises they have to live with?

What dreams do you have for Maori or indigenous tourism?
It’s happening now, more than 700 Maori business in the sector, 14,000 Maori emoloyed in the sector and a combined sales contribution of $1.7B. Who knew? Maori tourism isn’t just about a hongi, a hangi and a haka. It’s much more diverse.

What do you think the benefits of the summit are?
Networking and sharing ideas is always easier among indigenous epoples. We learn and grow through hui like this.

In a world that seems to be changing so quickly do you believe that culture has to work hard to stay relevant?
Maori and other indigenous peoples perhaps have to work hard to secure our culture. I certainly don’t know enough to ensure its future and one day my kuia and koroua won’t be around. It’ll be me and others of my age group who will have to take over their roles. Am I ready? Hell no! And I may never make the grade but I’m working on it. it.

Do you think we as Maori do a good job of sharing our culture with the world?
The pepeha of Tūhoe makes a big thing about giving all that they can or have to others – Tūhoe moumou kai, moumou taonga, moumou tangata ki te pō – In theory it’s an example I want to live up to. But I also think that we should give only so much. Especially in a world that thinks nothing of plundering and abusing indigenous rights.

From your own background and history, what are your thoughts or experiences of Maori Tourism?
It’s a profession that has helped us retain our culture in many ways. I try and look at the benefits for Māori rather than tourists because I’m pro-Māori. There are many and we’re lucky to have operators who see the intrinsic value of this.

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