Dan Hikuroa appointed Unesco national commissioner for culture

By Bronson Perich

Dr Dan Hikuroa (Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato-Tainui, Pākehā) is joining Unesco(the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) as the Aotearoa commissioner for culture.

But when he was approached for this role, he admits he hadn't heard much about Unesco's mahi in Aotearoa.

Unesco New Zealand comprises a chair, and a team of five national commissioners and a special advisor for youth, each of whom is a specialist in one area of Unesco's mandate and leads and advises on that area.

The secretariat – a small, specialised team based within the Ministry of Education’s international division, in Wellington – maintains the formal Unesco-New Zealand relationship and implements the decisions of the national commission.

“I hadn’t really heard too about what Unesco had been doing,” Hikuroa says.

“So one of my key personal goals is to ensure the work of Unesco is far more visible to whānau, hapū, iwi.”

Hikuroa has a PhD in geology and is senior lecturer, Te Wānanga o Waipapa, Māori Studies, at the University of Auckland, where he has also lectured in anthropology and geology. His expertise is in the areas of earth systems, mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge and ways of knowing), climate change, natural hazards and rivers. He has driven community and participatory projects that have include: marine spatial planning; environmental management plans; natural resource use and management; natural hazards, disaster risk reduction, resilience; and industrial waste-site rehabilitation.

Hikora explains his role as culture commissioner: “It’s actually seeing how the government lives up to those ideas of United Nations education, science, education and the culture.”

He says the UN recognises the importance of indigenous knowledge. He believes Unesco's objectives and Māori aspirations are compatible.