Topic: Tauranga City Libraries: Meeting the Needs of Local Iwi? Biculturalism and Māori Cultural Intellectual Property (2008) by Debbie McCauley

Topic type:

There are significant differences between Tauiwi (Pakeha or non-Māori) concepts of information and how Māori are connected to information, including how the issue of cultural intellectual property is impacting upon Māori cultural heritage. This paper briefly explores the history of Tauranga Moana (ocean area) and Tauranga City Libraries in the context of the wider issues and challenges of biculturalism and Māori cultural intellectual property. Findings are outlined and areas are identified that could be further developed. An important factor in dealing with Māori information is their specific perspective on information and its ownership, which is discussed. Again, findings are outlined and areas are identified that could be further developed. The library profession is intertwined indelibly with these issues, especially those libraries holding heritage collections, and has a significant role to play in this debate.

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This paper was written as part of a BA in Humanities and Information & Library Studies. It was published in The New Zealand Library & Information Management Journal, Vol. 51, Issue No. 4, in April 2010. You can read this issue by clicking here.

The Value of Information:

Information is essential to humanity as a means of learning from the past and in doing so, preparing for our future. It only has value and meaning however, if it is logically ordered and accessible. This is a role which libraries and archival institutions seek to fulfil along with meeting the information requirements of customers, no matter which culture they belong to. The information contained within a public library must serve the purposes of the local community. A significant part of this community includes local iwi (tribes), who are the tangata whenua (people of the land) of Aotearoa (New Zealand).

There are significant differences between Tauiwi (Pakeha or non-Māori) concepts of information and how Māori are connected to information, and specifically, how the issue of cultural intellectual property is impacting upon Māori cultural heritage. This paper seeks to briefly explore the history of Tauranga Moana (ocean area) and Tauranga City Libraries in the context of the wider issues and challenges of biculturalism and Māori cultural intellectual property.

Māori History of Tauranga Moana

To gain a good insight into biculturalism and to comprehend Māori cultural intellectual property issues there must first be an awareness of local history. Māori have lived in the area for over 700 years, having first arrived in 1290 (Tauranga City Council, n.d.), and this has imparted a strong sense of place to local iwi as acknowledged by the Waitangi Tribunal (2004) statement: ‘A strong identification with Tauranga Moana and with Mauao (Mount Maunganui) unites all the Māori groups of the Tauranga area’ (p. 28).

The Musket Wars 1820s

Throughout the following centuries many battles were fought between local and invading iwi. The first European to see Tauranga was Samuel Marsden in 1820 and population estimates at this time were around 2,500. There was much inter-tribal warfare between local iwi and attacks by raiding parties from outside the area during this period which was exacerbated by the introduction of muskets in the 1820s leading to the Musket Wars. ‘By the late 1820s, Ngati Maru of Hauraki was armed with muskets, and in 1828 they launched an attack on Tauranga and destroyed Otamataha Pa at Te Papa. Almost the entire population of the pa was either killed or enslaved, and missionaries who visited shortly after the battle encountered an appalling scene of devastation’ (Waitangi Tribunal, 2004, p. 31). By 1840 the Tauranga iwi population had significantly decreased as a result of more than two decades of warfare. ‘In part, this was due to introduced diseases, but probably more devastating to Tauranga Māori were the intertribal wars in which they were involved from 1818’ (Waitangi Tribunal, 2004, p. 30). After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi (Tiriti o Waitangi) in 1840, a peace treaty was negotiated between local iwi.

The New Zealand Wars 1860s

During the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s, the British military occupied Tauranga ostensibly to cut off the supply of Tauranga Māori who had been rendering assistance to the Māori King movement in theWaikato, but also with an eye to the fertile land in the area. During this time Māori built fortifications at Pukehinahina, now known as Gate Pa because of the Gate that crossed between missionary and Māori land.

The Battle of Gate Pa 1864

The Battle of Gate Pa (Pukehinahina) was fought in April 1864 resulting in a Māori victory after ‘1700 troops were repulsed by a mere 200 Māori’ (Waitangi Tribunal, 2004, p. 107). Reinforced bunkers had been built by Māori  and it is said that they were the first to use trench warfare, which was subsequently adopted during World War One. Great compassion was shown by Māori in the aftermath of the battle. This fact is commemorated by a stained glass window located in the Gate Pa Church depicting Māori giving water and aid to injured British soldiers.

The Battle of Te Ranga 1864

British soldiers attacked an unprepared Tauranga Māori in June of 1864 in what has become known as the Battle of Te Ranga. At the time local Māori were building a new fortification. The British soldiers won and many Māori were killed.


In August of that same year formal peacemaking with Māori was carried out after their surrender to government which included Raupatu (confiscation of Māori land by government during the 1860s) of 290,000 acres of Māori land. Some land was acquired as part of an enforced sale; other land was taken without payment and legitimised through legislation. The land was surveyed and distributed to military settlers, founding the new town of Tauranga. Rose (1997) rightly asserts that ‘confiscation indelibly altered the lives of Tauranga Māori. The short term consequences of loss in warfare were traumatic. The subsequent diminution of the land base had far reaching effects that are still being felt today’ (p. 1).

Tauranga Bush Campaign 1867

Māori response to surveying of the confiscated land was to “interfere” with the process, and in some cases threaten the surveyors themselves resulting in small-scale conflict, known as the Bush Campaign of 1867. There was an unjustifiable response by government to this conflict and I agree with the Waitangi Tribunal (2004) who state: ‘The actions of Crown forces in burning villages and destroying cultivations were excessive in relation to the declared aim of the campaign, which was to apprehend individuals who had interfered with surveys and threatened surveyors working on the confiscated blocks’ (pp. 260-261). This campaign signalled the end of the physical fighting in Tauranga Moana, and the beginning of pacifist resistance by Māori to confiscation and lobbying for fair and just recompense that has continued to this day. As Rose (1997) points out ‘prior to the war Māori had successfully created a thriving economy in Tauranga, attaining economic benefits from their involvement in the colonial economy. War and confiscation severed the progress of the Tauranga Māori economy’ (p. 168).

Loss of tradition

The 1870s were difficult times for Māori and saw a considerable decline in the population of a now marginalised people. Loss of land and the resulting scarcity of food and poverty had severe consequences for Māori survival leading to hardship, malnutrition, starvation and in turn, increased susceptibility to European diseases. Rose (1997) explains ‘as contact with Europeans was still relatively uncommon in Tauranga during the 1870s, the vulnerability to disease was probably partially due to a continuing lack of immunity. However, this vulnerability was also heightened by the periods of poverty and scarcity faced by Tauranga Māori during the 1870s’ (pp. 20-21).

Local iwi had always enjoyed free access to the sea for kaimoana (seafood), but with subsequent European settlement of the area, access to this supply was cut off, one of the factors leading to the shortage of food for local Māori during this time. ‘The extension of European settlement at Tauranga during the early twentieth century placed renewed pressures upon Māori land and society. By 1900 a significant proportion of Tauranga Māori was landless and those that did retain land were severely hampered by the small and fragmented land holdings’ (Rose, 1997, p. 111). This wasn’t helped by failing potato crops in 1873 and 1874 and in modern times pollution of the Tauranga Harbour has further degraded supplies of kaimoana.

Some land was later returned to Māori but as the Waitangi Tribunal explains, this wasn’t usually a fair and just return. ‘Land was frequently “returned” to a minority of those holding customary interests in it. This minority had often previously entered into agreements to sell the land to Pakeha’ (2004, p. 366). The consequence of raupatu is that local iwi have an insufficient land base resulting in the loss of their economic sustainability. Charles Rahiri, in the Waitangi Tribunal (2004) report explains: ‘Māori have inherited a legacy of loss... perpetuated in a cycle of drugs, alcohol, violence, depression, anger, hate, and pain’ (pp. 361-362). The Māori connection with the land which imparts a sense of wholeness and wellness is further explored by Vasil (1988) who states: ‘Land forms the essential basis of Māoridom... Their spiritual moorings, myths, oral traditions and social relationships are all based in land’ (pp. 9-10). Today many Māori are actively choosing to empower themselves and move away from this cycle of loss. They remain determined to increase their autonomy which in turn has allowed for progressive thinking. This has resulted in iwi and hapu based initiatives such as health centres and te reo programmes which have paved the way for other bicultural initiatives.


Biculturalism is a topical issue in New Zealand today and impacts on all aspects of society. The basis for biculturalism (and consequently, Māori cultural intellectual property rights) is our founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, signed by the British Crown and over 500 Māori chiefs in 1840.

In the late 1800’s it was felt that cultural assimilation or the absorbing of Māori into Tauiwi culture was the way forward. Rose (1997) explains this wide-spread belief:

The Māori population reached its lowest ebb in the 1890s and it was generally believed that Māori was a dying race. The prevailing belief held that a remnant of the Māori would survive only through the adaptation of a Pakeha lifestyle and that separate Māori institutions would only hinder this development. (pp. 49-50)

However, the Māori population slowly recovered and in the 1980’s, as part of the renaissance of Māori culture, the concept of biculturalism emerged. This concept defines two cultures living side by side, respecting and embracing each other’s beliefs, identity, culture, traditions and educational systems.

Ideally public libraries as repositories of information and defenders of democracy, must demonstrate a commitment to biculturalism and indeed, they have an obligation to uphold Treaty values. Garraway & Szekely (1994) state ‘Biculturalism in libraries is defined as an organisational strategy based on the spirit and intent of the Treaty of Waitangi’ (p. 6). Māori cultural intellectual property is covered by Article Two of the Treaty which according to McRae & Wild (1990), ‘guarantees Māori people the full, exclusive and undisturbed possession of all their taonga - tangible and intangible, however or whenever made or found’ (p. 50). This includes incorporating those values into all aspects of library policy and service. They also state that ‘The bicultural process is about developing and valuing staff and clients, promoting partnership relationships, structural and procedural change to promote cultural safety for Māori staff and clients, and empowering people’ (Garraway & Szekely, 1994, p. 6). The results of implementing biculturalism into an institution can have flow-on beneficial effects strengthening the relationship with and empowering of the local community. Makoare (1999) states: ‘Any person or process which ensures the facilitation of excellent communication, communication which genuinely reflects Māori expectations and those of the library and archives professions and institutions, will truly reflect the Treaty of Waitangi’ (p. 26).

Taonga tuku iho (The New Zealand Room) at Tauranga City Libraries:

Tauranga City Libraries endeavour to meet the needs of the regions iwi who include:

  • Ngati Ranginui
  • Ngaiterangi
  • Ngati Pukenga and
  • Te Arawa.

These iwi trace their descent from three waka (canoes) that came to New Zealand more than 900 years ago: Takitimu, Mataatua and Te Arawa. Information and history records pertaining to these iwi are held in Taonga Tuku Iho (the New Zealand Room) at the central Tauranga City Library. The focal point of the Māori collection is a statue Te Waharoa o te Mana Matauranga (The Gateway to the Power of Knowledge). This was created by master carver James (Hemi) Tapiata and was presented to the library in 1994 with the specific purpose of attracting and welcoming Māori into the library. Te Waharoa can be seen as symbolic of the desire for better relationships between Tauranga City Libraries and Māori, despite past and present challenges.

Te Waharoa o te Mana Matauranga (The Gateway to the Power of Knowledge)

The first library archivist was employed in 1976 to manage the archives which were housed in the Town Hall (1914 to 1987). In the 1980s the council decided that the building needed to be demolished in order to make way for a new library and civic centre, which prompted protests and an occupation by Māori. Jinty Rorke (2006) who held the archivist position from 1980 to 2007 explains that ‘despite protests from tangata whenua and occupation of the building, demolition was inevitable’ (p. 10). The protests and occupation are further discussed by Smith (2005) ‘The Town Hall occupation in 1987 by Ngai Tamarawaho land activists was bitter and divisive’ (p. 6). This was a changing time in New Zealand’s history when Māori were protesting at past injustices and revitalising te reo (Māori language) and Māori culture.

Lack of consultation with Māori led to relations between Tauranga City Council, Tauranga City Libraries and local iwi being strained again prior to the new library opening in May 1989. Rorke (2006) describes how ‘In October 1988 books were being moved into the upper level of the new library building when a protest by some of the local hapū (sub-tribe) resulted in damage to the books, setting the project back some weeks’ (p. 10). This period in Tauranga City Libraries history is remembered as a tumultuous chapter resulting in a change of attitude and behaviour as commented on by Smith (2005): ‘The current city library was built on the contested site. Fear and distrust on both sides were so intense that library management and senior staff knew that it was essential to make moves towards the reconciliation of Māori with the library community’ (p. 6). I agree with Makoare (1999) who asserts:

Regardless of the mind-sets of the past, the responsibility now falls squarely on institutions and collections, and therefore their staff, to proceed to a position where Māori values, perspectives and people permeate into all levels and aspects of the custody of documents and other informational materials. (p. 19)

The decision by Jinty Rorke to enrol in the Waikato University’s Certificate in Māori Studies, which she completed in 1990, aided the healing process and established closer ties between local iwi and library staff. ‘After consultation it was decided to shelve publications with Māori content separately in order to make use easier for Māori borrowers’ (Rorke, 2006, p. 11). This commitment to healing was reinforced in 1992 when the first Māori Services Librarian, Mererina Murray was appointed. Her responsibilities included ‘indexing and maintaining Māori resources ... advising management on bicultural issues and Māori protocol’ (Rorke, 2006, p. 4). Tangimeriana Rua was employed as a children’s librarian and although she had no official Māori services role at that time, did fulfil Māori-specific needs in that area. Tauranga City Libraries responsibilities toward the Treaty of Waitangi have further evolved to the point where a Māori cadetship with an official kaupapa Māori (values and plans of action from a Māori perspective) role, was offered from 2007.

The role of Māori Services Librarian has had a positive impact on Tauranga City Libraries relationship with local Māori. An example is when iwi sought help in gaining information to prepare their grievance cases as part of their application to the Waitangi Tribunal. ‘The Waitangi Tribunal claims process played a big part in familiarizing local Māori with the library and its holdings’ (Smith, 2005, p. 6). The NZ Room’s Māori holdings and services include:

  • Bay of Plenty Times from 1872 (microfilm).
  • Bernard Sladden Collection (1880-1961). His interests included Māori history and his rare collection of books was donated to the Tauranga City Libraries after his death. The Māori books in this collection total 441.
  • Card index for local Māori people, places and events.
  • Index to Māori Births and Deaths 1913 to 1960 (included in the general index after 1960).
  • Index to Māori Marriages 1911 to 1951 (included in the general index after 1951).
  • Journal of the Polynesian Society (complete set).
  • Māori Electoral Rolls 1908, 1919, 1949, Eastern Māori 1969-1983, all areas   1985 onwards.
  • Māori Newspapers and Magazines (Local and National).
  • Māori photograph collection.
  • Māori Reference Collection totalling 2234 items.
  • NZ Gazettes.
  • Old maps of the Western Bay of Plenty.
  • Raupatu Document Bank Volume 1 to Volume 139.
  • TaurangaCemeteryRecords.
  • Tauranga Moana Māori Land Court Minute Books.
  • Te Puke Times from 1913 (microfilm) and other local papers.
  • Tukutuku Collection: Donated in 1993 by the Matua branch of the Māori Women’s Welfare League. Each woven panel is labelled with its name and story.
  • Waitangi Tribunal Reports.

Over this time (1992-1999) Mererina Murray noticed changes with Māori library users:

They were more confident as researchers. They were less angry. They had been able to process the evidence they had discovered in the library into published reports, which were then fed back into the library’s holdings thus forming a body of information for future workers to build on ... .The other changes she noticed was the proliferation of family reunions for which stories and whakapapa were collected; again, these compilations’ were fed back into the library, completing a cycle of research. (Smith, 2005, p. 7)

Past and present initiatives by Tauranga City Libraries to strengthen relationships with local iwi and promote biculturalism cover a range of areas:

  • Bicultural Training: Offered to staff as ‘Cultural Connections’ run by the Tauranga City Council’s Takawaenga Māori Unit.
  • Bilingual signage.
  • Collections: Establishing the adult Māori non-lending NZ Room collection; the   adult Māori fiction and non-fiction lending collections and the children’s Māori fiction and non-fiction lending collections.
  • Using Kowhaiwhai (painted rafter patterns associated with the Māori meeting house) labels to identify Māori material.
  • Advice is being sought and considered from local iwi to fulfil Tauranga City Libraries tikanga (customary practices) obligations.
  • New logo. This logo incorporates:
    • a wave (the ocean and harbour);
    • a mountain (Mauao or Mount Maunganui),
    • a Koru (incorporating new life and the Māori culture),
    • sitting on top of an open book (the emergence of imagination and information) and
    • the words “Te Ao Marama” (The World of Life and Light). Te Ao Marama is used to symbolise the emergence of knowledge from the collections of the Library.
  • Māori cadetship offered from September 2007.
  • Developing relationships with Māori organisations, departments, institutes and schools. Engaging with and setting up visits and tutorial sessions.
  • Māori specific programmes around annual events such as Matariki, Māori Language Week and Waitangi Day. In 2007 Tauranga City Libraries were finalists in the public library category of the Te Taura Whiri Māori Language Week Awards 2007. This was for their promotion of Te Reo Māori via various activities and events during Māori Language Week.
  • Marae: Staff visits are organised to raise awareness of marae protocol and maintain a relationship with local iwi.
  • Mobile library visits to Kohanga Reo (Māori language pre-school), Te Kura Kaupapa O Otepou (Māori language school) and local Marae.
  • Māori language pronunciation sessions are offered.
  • Publication of Mana Wahine in September 1993 (profiles of local Māori women in theBay of Plenty district).
  • Publication of Māori Obituaries in September 1992 (published obituaries from the Bay of Plenty Times1866-1920).
  • Tauranga Art Gallery: Establishing closer ties with this new gallery which recently hosted an exhibition entitled “Ko Tawa: Māori Ancestors of New Zealand”. This exhibition consists of Māori taonga collected by Captain Gilbert Mair (1843-1923) who in 1937 authored a book about Gate Pa in Tauranga titled ‘The Story of Gate Pa.’
  • Te Whare Reo o Tauranga Moana - 25 Year Strategic Māori Language Plan: This document was presented to Tauranga City Libraries during a formal Māori Language Week ceremony.
  • Encouragement for Māori staff to join and attend meetings (hui) held by Te Ropu Whakahau (the Māori librarians and information workers association).
  • Training opportunities offered to staff around the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
  • Staff can join a waiata (Māori singing) group which rehearses traditional Māori songs and performs at various library events.
  • Bicultural guidelines: Currently being devised.

In addition, the Tauranga City Council’s Takawaenga Māori Unit has been instrumental in bringing together local iwi via the “Kaumatua Forum” and other committees that have Māori specific representation in order to foster better relationships with Māori. These committees advise on issues and projects such as the Tauranga Museum proposal.

At present there is no museum in Tauranga and a proposal to build one has recently been in the submission process. Many taonga (treasures) are housed in a storage facility awaiting the submission process outcome. The NZ Room staff visited the storage facility on April 3rd 2008 and discussed various issues with museum staff. A memorandum of understanding with local iwi is in place allowing the museum to hold certain items. It is to be hoped that there will be some enlightenment and forward thinking on the part of the wider Tauranga community resulting in a museum building and the repatriation of local taonga currently held by Te Papa, Auckland and Waikato museums. The problem of not having a museum has been highlighted by the recent Ko Tawa exhibition of taonga that originate from the Bay of Plenty, but instead of being accommodated locally where local iwi can have access, are instead housed by the Auckland Museum as Tauranga does not yet have the required facilities to accommodate such as collection.

Areas that could be further developed at Tauranga City Libraries include:

  • Bicultural vision statement to develop and clarify Treaty and bicultural aspirations.
  • Educational strategies such as improved user education to assist Māori with access to information technology.
  • Iwi-based repositories: Investigation into the possibility of setting up libraries on marae.
  • Māori information: Research and consultation with local iwi into local dialects; local iwi customary practices; the collection, care and handling of Māori information and how Māori information is presented, stored and used.
  • Māori librarians help to overcome the non-Māori image of librarianship as a career. According to Statistics New Zealand (2007, p. 9) Māori are 17.7% of the New Zealand population and at present Tauranga City Libraries has 95 staff covering 65 FTE (full-time equivalent positions) five of whom acknowledge their Māori heritage. Tauranga City Libraries might endeavour to actively recruit more Māori staff by, for instance, increasing kaupapa Māori components in job descriptions and the profession as a whole could investigate ways to attract Māori school leavers.
  • Nga Upoko Tukutuku (Māori Subject Headings): Incorporation into catalogue records.
  • Relationship building: Continue to strengthen a mutually beneficial relationship     with local iwi. A robust relationship with key Māori exists already but more consultation with local iwi would further enhance this relationship. ‘It is the responsibility of the institution to develop a partnership which cares for the cultural property and determines appropriate future access and use’ (Makoare, 1999, p. 24).
  • Website: Development of Te Reo (Māori language) pages on the library website.

Māori Cultural Intellectual Property:

A complicating factor in dealing with Māori information is their specific perspective on information and its ownership. Librarians who work with Māori information ought to be aware that some tangata whenua regard information very differently from Tauiwi (non-Māori). This is explained by McRae (1992) who asserts that ‘Knowledge was believed to have come first from the gods, in those three baskets of popular imagery, the contents of which were classified according to the subjects of:

  • the gods, ritual and genealogy;
  • evil, magic and sorcery; and
  • the practical arts and human relations’ (p. 70).

The two main types of Māori information are tapu (sacred) ancestral knowledge and noa or everyday information. Some Māori believe that tapu and noa knowledge should not be stored together and that tapu knowledge should be handled with great care and respect (including hand washing prior to and after handling). It can be difficult to identify what sort of information is being handled because the two types can overlap and this can cause some trepidation amongst librarians who may be uncertain of how exactly to deal with the physical items. These concepts deserve respect and are worth exploration by libraries when handling and disseminating indigenous information. It is worth noting, however, that not all Māori share this traditionalist view of information. The purist view is further explained by Cullen (1996) who says:

Knowledge is owned by the group, the tribe or sub-tribe. It is for the benefit of the group, and individuals are not expected to profit from it. Māori knowledge may be tapu (sacred knowledge, healing and religious knowledge) or noa (common or everyday knowledge, crafts, and hunting or fishing skills). The transmission of tapu knowledge is subject to constraints; even ordinary knowledge is communally owned, and may not be passed to another tribe. (pp. 2-3)

Traditionally, and for some Māori today, all cultural knowledge is a taonga (treasure). As Frankel & McLay (2002) express it ‘A number of Māori values are relevant to intellectual property. These include not just the broad concept of taonga, but also whakapapa (genealogy), mauri (life force), kaitiakitanga (guardianship), and rangatiratanga (spirit)’ (p. 104).

Traditionally a guardian was appointed from the iwi to both protect information for future generations and disseminate the knowledge to appropriate persons. Libraries would do well to develop relationships with these guardians as essentially our goals are very similar. As Makoare (1999) explains: ‘It is these guardians who should be sought out by institutions and consulted regarding the appropriate use and care of cultural information’ (p. 24). Sometimes identifying the correct person for consultation can be a challenge. Unfortunately the concept of guardianship and the concept of intellectual property rights, such as copyright and trade marking, do not complement each other, and may actually be in conflict. ‘The Māori focus on guardianship of taonga for future generations does not sit well with the concept that intellectual property rights expire’ (Frankel & McLay, 2002, p. 111). However the concept of protection of information and tapu is comparable to intellectual property laws but at variance in the length and depth of the protection offered, which can be difficult to comprehend from a Māori perspective. Te Marino-Lenihan (1996) explains:

Traditionally, protection over taonga was achieved through tapu. Tapu existed in differing degrees or strength which varied accordingly to the subject-matter in question. The nature of tapu is that it does not have a definite life span. Therefore, there was no pre-determined, finite period in which tapu would operate over knowledge, protecting it. The suggestion that Māori should be subjected to a limited monopoly right after which it would be available for exploitation by outside parties, would be to misunderstand the role that cultural knowledge plays in Māori society. The imposition of such a regime on Māori knowledge is consequently an affront to Māori culture. (p. 213)

Māori have been raising concerns about cultural intellectual property rights for many years. Their concerns include the misuse of knowledge gathered by their ancestors over centuries. This relates to patterns, songs, dance, carvings, images, names, symbols, paintings, poetry, traditional medicines and histories among others. ‘Knowledge and traditional resources are central to the maintenance of identity for indigenous peoples. Therefore, control over these resources is of central concern in their struggle for self-determination’ (Posey & Dutfield, 1996, p. 19). An example of their concerns was an exhibition held at Baycourt, Tauranga in 1984 on the misuse of culture. The exhibition included a collection of items depicting Māori taonga, specifically created for the tourist market. This included tea towels, lighters, handkerchiefs, candles and cartoons etc that had been labelled offensive by the Race Relations Conciliator of the time. ‘Wax figures of famous ancestors, such as Pania of the reef, are burnt - something that is perhaps akin to burning Māori’s in effigy’ (Boyle, 1984, p. 1). Jackson (1993) makes the observation that ‘While indigenous peoples, including Māori, have been willing to share the richness of their cultures, there is growing concern that such knowledge is too often exploited for the profit of others, or redefined out of its specific political and social context’ (p. 7). Māori protests about the sale of these items have been largely ignored over the years with financial gain taking precedence over cultural considerations which Boyle (1984) explains further:

The gross ignorance and insensitivity of the manufacturers of these objects is prominent. To the Māori, the head is considered highly tapu and things which are noa (common or tapu removing) such as food or bodily excretion should not be associated with things tapu. To use images of a head as candles, on handkerchiefs, tablecloths, tea towels, table mats, sugar sachets and cushions is extremely insulting and demeaning. (p. 1)

Māori cultural intellectual property has been routinely poached by manufacturers for financial gain without consultation or consideration of the appropriate use of replicas of taonga. This has been greatly disrespectful to many Māori, causing insult and in some cases great distress. The use of the hei tiki is a case in point; ‘The hei tiki or tiki, as it is commonly known, is a sacred object associated with birth and fertility. To mass produce plastic replicas or to turn the tiki into bars of soap is to defile it’ (Boyle, 1984, p. 1). It is to be hoped, as part of the Māori renaissance and growing awareness of cultural issues by Tauiwi, that this misuse of Māori representation will become relegated to our less enlightened past.

The emergence of the digitisation of Māori information is a serious concern too and involves trust issues over who has access and control over information. The issue of Māori cultural intellectual property is at the forefront of the debate. Szekely (1997) states: ‘There are questions relating to the appropriateness of having some Māori information widely available in an electronic format and the possibility of Māori having even less control over the distribution of Māori information’ (p. 58).

The Mataatua Declaration on Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples resulted in guidelines for cultural intellectual property. For example, section 2.1 (1993): ‘Recognise that indigenous peoples are the guardians of their customary knowledge and have the right to protect and control dissemination of that knowledge’ (p. 4). This statement has significant implications for institutions such as public libraries that hold and circulate this type of information. Makoare (1999) clarifies the need for a new attitude by stating: ‘The sheer volume of Māori materials, together with the firmness with which Māori are now asserting their rights in respect of this cultural property and information, means that the time is ripe for some new thinking’ (p. 20).

The following complexities are also highlighted whereby existing intellectual property laws do not take into account the concept of Māori knowledge leading to misinterpretation and dissatisfaction. ‘Taonga whether they be artefacts, cultural treasures, oral traditions or knowledge of the healing properties of plants may simply fall outside the intellectual property regime. They may not meet the current copyright test of originality, or if they do, they may have outlived the term of copyright protection’ (Frankel & McLay, 2002, p. 108). There is now no excuse for misunderstanding as both cultures deepen their knowledge of each other and we must now work together and look to the way forward, upholding and respecting customary rights and satisfying or seeking to change the law to safeguard this information in the way that tapu has traditionally protected taonga. I agree when Frankel & McLay (2002) go on to say:

It remains to be seen how successful indigenous peoples will be in balancing their desire to exploit their intellectual property with their own concerns that such exploitation should be culturally appropriate. Indigenous peoples ought to be given the meaningful opportunity to set that balance, rather than just having the balance imposed upon them. (p. 122)

Some issues that must be considered when dealing with Māori cultural intellectual property include:

  • Accuracy and Authority: The authority of the author and the accuracy of the information should be considered.
  • Access: Should only descendants of particular iwi have access to information on their own history? Some Māori resources on the internet are freely available to all and this may be deemed to be inappropriate by those who created or ‘own’ the information. This issue is raised by the Open Polytechnic who state: ‘although security systems can be set in place, it is not always possible to restrict access to information or control its ultimate use in the way Māori may require’ (2006, p. 25).
  • Collection:  Is it appropriate to collect Māori information? Who owns the information within our collection? Who should we be consulting with? ‘There have been assumptions made about the ownership, collection and later use of that property, based on the culture of the collector, not that of the creator or donor’ (Makoare, 1999, p. 21).
  • Control: Should access to matauranga Māori (traditional knowledge) be limited to appropriate holders of that knowledge? McRae (1992) points outOnce tribal lore was written down (from the early 1850s) it moved out of the control of the tribe, into the domain of other tribes, into the hands of Pakeha and, eventually, into public libraries’ (p. 70).
  • Copying:  Can Māori information be copied? Some Māori are happy with photocopying or photographing of information, believing the taonga belongs with the original copies; other iwi disagree and believe that the copies are also taonga.
  • Digital Divide: The digital divide is a term that describes the gap between those who have the skills and access to information and communication technologies and those who do not. Māori are over-represented in those who do not have access to the internet so the development of electronic resources for and about Māori both provide opportunities and pose challenges. ‘Not all potential users have access to the technology required to access electronic formats’ (Open Polytechnic, 2006, p. 25)
  • Financial Issues: At present financial proceeds are retained by the author of published works, whatever the topic may be. However this could be challenged  as explained by Frankel & McLay (2002) who state: ‘Legitimate claims exist to require that traditional knowledge be used both respectfully and when used commercially that some financial benefits flow to the indigenous community’ (p. 121).
  • Ownership: This is not seen as individual by Māori: rather the whanau (family), hapu (subtribe) or iwi are deemed to own the knowledge collectively. Identifying the creator of certain information is near impossible as a lot of Māori information is owned by all members but the collective can be approached for permission. One aspect of this problem is unscrupulous persons claiming cultural intellectual property rights over certain knowledge.
  • Law: New Zealand Intellectual Property law (along with many other types of law) does not recognise Māori traditional knowledge and this is one of the big issues facing Māoridom today. ‘Māori have a number of concerns with the current intellectual property laws of this country’ (Open Polytechnic, 2006, p. 41). This is discussed further by Te Marino-Lenihan (1996): ‘It is clear that the law must break from its traditional intention to assimilate indigenous cultures into western legal paradigms’ (p. 214).
  • Unearthing Information: As Falconer (2003) points out ‘One of the most difficult tasks facing Māori and organisations alike is the identification of Māori knowledge within an organisation’s holdings, and determining ownership and access rights to that information’ (p. 462).

Some possible solutions include:

  • An independent Cultural Regime as discussed by Frankel & McLay (2002) who explains, for instance, that ‘Flags, emblems and the word "ANZAC" are granted special protection outside the traditional intellectual property regime’ (p. 111). There is the opportunity then to fit Māori values into a relevant framework.
  • The amending of moral rights in copyright law which would ‘allow perpetual moral rights which could include cultural property rights’ (Frankel & McLay, 2002, p. 111).
  • The appointment of an inter-tribal Māori Cultural Intellectual Property Commissioner.


This paper has given an overview of the history of Tauranga Moana and Tauranga City Libraries in the context of the wider issues and challenges of biculturalism and Māori cultural intellectual property. The library profession is intertwined indelibly with these issues, especially those libraries holding heritage collections and has a significant role to play in this debate. In these areas we are well supported by our professional associations, LIANZA (Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa), Te Rōpū Whakahau, and SLANZA (School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa) who have all taken a positive stance on the Treaty of Waitangi and its implementation.

There are significant issues still to be addressed such as the further promotion of librarianship as a valid career path for Māori. The way this profession is presented and made relevant to Māori could be improved by asserting that we are kaitiaki (a group of people acting as custodians and conservators of taonga). In a wider perspective, I also believe that until all children in schools are being taught, and are fluent in te reo Māori then we cannot truly call ourselves bicultural. In more realistic terms and from a library perspective this would entail encouragement for staff to undertake more training and to make a commitment to pronunciation and learning te reo, especially greetings.

Libraries should be respectful of Māori cultural intellectual property and ensure that staff are made aware of the concerns surrounding this issue, including acknowledging and handling this information with integrity. We need to be aware of any future possible law changes that may happen as New Zealand tries to safeguard the intellectual property rights and use of Māori information.

Ideally, as librarians we should seek to deepen our understanding of tangata whenua and our role of upholding the Treaty of Waitangi for the good of Aotearoa and of our own Tamariki (children) and Mokopuna (grandchildren). Greater understanding leads to greater tolerance and in turn this promotes healing from past injustices and the moving forward of our country in harmony. The library profession must do what it can to continue to strengthen its bicultural stance and address Māori cultural intellectual property issues ensuring that Māori values are given meaningful consideration. There is still much to do, but the past two decades have seen major changes take place in this country for the betterment of all. We can place faith in the examples of the recent past to guide us and inspire us forward.



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Many thanks to staff at Tauranga City Libraries and Tauranga City Council for their contribution to discussions about the issues raised in this paper:

  • Chloe Thyne (Marketing Manager)
  • Hatiwira Tutengaehe (Māori  Cadetship)
  • Jill Best (General Manager: Library Service)
  • Karren Anderson (former Māori  Services Librarian)
  • Mererina Murray (Tauranga City Council’s Takawaenga Māori  Unit)
  • Ngareta Payne (Papamoa Library Team Leader)
  • Tangimeriana Rua (Māori  Services Librarian)

by Debbie McCauley (2008). 

For more resources on Maori Cultural Intellectual Property, visit the Tauranga Library Wiki by clicking here.  

This page was archived at perma cc January 2017

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Tauranga City Libraries: Meeting the Needs of Local Iwi? Biculturalism and Māori Cultural Intellectual Property (2008) by Debbie McCauley

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