Business leader calls for action to protect Māori culture in commerce

By Talisa Kupenga

A Māori businessman says intellectual property (IP) culture in commerce is essential to protecting Māori culture on the global stage.

Wakatū Incorporation Chairman Paul Morgan says outsiders taking elements of indigenous culture for commercial gain is becoming the norm and New Zealand needs to act fast to protect Māori culture in this space.

"No one else should be commercially benefiting from our knowledge and what we've created over the generations other than Māori and our country."

Commercial rights to the term mānuka have caused a global stir- a Māori word with cultural ties causing tension in the honey market.

Ngāti Porou Mīere Ltd General Manager Victor Goldsmith says, “The Australians are fighting us at the moment to try ensure that they can protect theirs, which they've only just started because now they're calling their tea tree 'mānuka' and that's an issue for us as Māori.  We need to protect that for us and the generations to come because if we don't start the fight then we'll always be on the back foot."

Cultural IP was the key focus of the Ngā Taonga Tuku Iho conference and whether NZ's IP laws will be adequate in time for the expected signing of the CPTPP was a key issue raised.

Morgan says, "When we sign that document we've got three years to get our house in order and I'm very concerned that it is not in order and that is to the detriment of our country and particularly Māori."

Attendees are looking at options for temporary interventions to buy time for a long-term system to address the global use of Māori cultural and intellectual property.