Iwi leader defends decision to travel to Dubai for expo

By Heta Gardiner

Ngāti Kahungunu leader Ngahiwi Tomoana has defended his decision to travel to Dubai for the Te Aratini expo, saying environmental issues and language revitalisation initiatives cannot just be put on pause, and that the large number of Emiratis that are vaccinated makes the expo safe to attend.

Earlier this week, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta was en route to Dubai to host Te Aratini, a festival of indigenous and tribal ideas, at Expo 2020 and to meet seven foreign ministers and a range of international representatives. The festival is New Zealand's single most important event there and is supported by a range of Māori experts who will demonstrate Māori indigenous values and trade opportunities on the world stage.

Some iwi leaders, however, decided not to attend, with Covid spreading in our communities.

The United Arab Emirates region has recorded 741,000 cases and just over 2,000 deaths. The region has a population of over 10 million. But Tomoana is confident the expo is safe, “Last year, the expo was to be held in Dubai, but it was postponed to this year to give the majority of Emiratis the chance to get vaccinated, and as far as I know 100 per cent of the Emiratis are now vaccinated,” said Tomoana.

“We need to trade and progress environmental and language initiatives post-Covid, we need to find new pathways for Māori.”