Thursday, December 3, 2009
A multi-million dollar venture is putting Northcote's Awataha Marae in Auckland on the international map. It has signed a cooperation agreement with a major Chinese company to open up tourism opportunities for both China and New Zealand. The venture will see Awataha building a Maori Cultural Village on a two-hectare site in Qufu City - in China's northeast province of Shandong - the birthplace of Confucius. Awataha leader and spokesman Anthony Wilson says the agreement "secures for the Maori people and New Zealand a stake in a $200 million tourism development project in the city".
"This is an important deal for us. It's a great big project and it will create not only job and training opportunities but also open up a new gateway for Maori and New Zealand culture to flourish globally," he says. Mr Wilson was in Qufu recently to formally sign the agreement with his counterparts from the New Zealand Gardens Qufu. The company is building the New Zealand Gardens theme park at the Shimenshan Scenic National Forest Park north of Qufu. The 670ha development will feature the Maori village as the main gateway to the park, tipped to attract millions of tourists from China and around the world.
The park will have a 54-hole golf course, a dairy farm, organic orchards, vineyard and winery, equestrian club, hotels, luxury villas and spa resort and an international school. "The level of investment being poured into this project is in excess of two billion Chinese yuan or around $200m. "To be part of a massive development with limitless potential is historic for Awataha and it signals a new dawn for the Maori people," he says. Awataha's part of the project would be to build and maintain the Maori village.
It will erect an exact replica of its wharenui or meeting house on the Shore and build a 36-metre tall waharoa or gateway into the complex. "The cultural protocol that we've agreed upon provides that everything comes through the village," he says. The gateway will be adorned with traditional carvings promoting the principle of kotahitanga or unity of people. He says Awataha is also able to leverage ownership of part of the village and become "stakeholders of the whole thing".
"It also opens up a direct link between New Zealand, China and the world and provides a window for Maori culture and New Zealand in general," he says. The joint venture will be formally launched in Wellington on Monday with a powerhouse delegation from China coming over for the ceremony.
Acknowledgements: Awataha Marae Project