Māori intellectual property hui welcomed

By Kelvin McDonald

Whakatū marae welcomed close to 200 Ngā Taonga Tuku Iho delegates at a pōwhiri in Nelson yesterday afternoon, opening a conference that's an important 'wellness' check on Māori intellectual, cultural and property rights.

The 'Our Past, Our Future, Our Legacy' conference comes 26 years after WAI-262 was lodged in the Waitangi Tribunal and 7 years since the Tribunal released its ’Ko Aotearoa Tēnei’ report on this indigenous flora and fauna claim.

Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui (Nelson–Marlborough) was chosen as the setting for the conference because of its association with the original claim.

With many issues affecting Māori intellectual, cultural and property rights still unclear, cultural misappropriation occurring on a regular basis and New Zealand's intellectual property laws failing to address core issues raised by Māori, the conference organisers say, "It is timely to meet, discuss, debate and develop our own responses, protocols and key messages for legal reform." 

The speakers for the first evening of the conference were Oliver Sutherland, a retired DSIR scientist, and Deputy Chief Judge Caren Fox of the Māori Land Court. 

Sutherland, who in the mid-80s helped conceive the claim that would become WAI-262, provided a history of the claim and Judge Fox explained the legal background to the report.

Upcoming speakers include Moana Jackson, Maui Solomon, Aroha Mead, Australian Indigenous lawyer Terri Janke and Alejandro Argumedo, a programme director for a Peru-based indigenous peoples’ organisation.

The conference continues today, with organisers expecting delegate numbers to grow to near 300, and concludes Tuesday.