How a playmate exposed the cultural chasm between Maori and Pakeha

Playboy playmate Jaylene Cook climbed to the top of Mt Taranaki and bared all.

Playboy playmate Jaylene Cook climbed to the top of Mt Taranaki and bared all.

When Jaylene Cook climbed Mt Taranaki to bare all she exposed more than herself. Deena Coster reports on the cultural chasm that still exists between Maori and Pakeha. 

Dennis Ngawhare is getting tired of having to defend his views and values to the world.

Polite and articulate, the Maori man is also well educated. In 2014 he earned his PhD with a thesis focused on Taranaki's most iconic symbol, its mountain.

Mt Taranaki is a part of the region's identity and is considered by iwi to be an ancestor.
GRANT MATTHEW/Fairfax NZ

Mt Taranaki is a part of the region's identity and is considered by iwi to be an ancestor.

So of all people to know and use the mountain the Onaero man is arguably amongst the most well placed to have an informed and respected opinion on it. 

But when he judged glamour model and former Playboy model Jaylene Cook's naked photo opportunity atop Mt Taranaki as being disrespectful because Maori consider the mountain an ancestor, it was he who faced a backlash.

"They said I was talking rubbish," he says. 

Taranaki man Dennis Ngawhare spoke up for his cultural beliefs and despite the public derision he faced, he would do it ...
Virginia Winder

Taranaki man Dennis Ngawhare spoke up for his cultural beliefs and despite the public derision he faced, he would do it again.

And the online commentary didn't stop at that. Ngawhare's explanations were dismissed as nonsense, superstition, supernatural gobbledegook. As though it was the Maori viewpoint that turned Cook's pose into a scandal rather than Cook's actions themselves. 

Ngawhare was taken aback. To him explaining the mountain was an ancestor and so standing at its peak is similar to standing on your grandfather's head was being helpful.

It didn't mean people shouldn't spend time on the mountain, he says, but they should be mindful about what they do when they visit if they wished to respect the values of the tangata whenua.

Minister of Maori Development Te Ururoa Flavell believes a lack of understanding for the indigenous culture has gone on ...
KEVIN STENT

Minister of Maori Development Te Ururoa Flavell believes a lack of understanding for the indigenous culture has gone on for too long.

It's a Maori cultural view point and not a rule but even when people speak up in its defence, they often cop criticism, Ngawhare says. And he's getting sick of that response. 

Ad Feedback

"It's constantly having to justify why we behave this way, why we feel this way," he says. 

To minister of Maori Development Te Ururoa Flavell the cultural chasm in New Zealand is nothing new.

"There is a general lack of understanding about Maori cultural values and it has been that way for far too long," he says.

Flavell says the uniqueness of Maori culture is what sets New Zealand apart.

"Accepting cultural values is part and parcel of being a global traveller and in promoting tourism to New Zealand it is vital we also highlight, protect and enhance Maori cultural values," he says.

Uluru has been back in the hands of its traditional owners since 1985.
Chris Jackson

Uluru has been back in the hands of its traditional owners since 1985.

And while local and central government have a role to play, Flavell says the "catalyst" for change lies in communities making the decision themselves to both acknowledge and value differing viewpoints.

READ MORE:
Dave Armstrong: A road by another name might say something about our confidence
Dennis Ngawhare: Ravaged by a viral storm
Playmate Mt Taranaki nude photo deemed disrespectful

A GLOBAL ISSUE

A sign near Uluru in the Australian Northern Territory, which asks people to respect the indigenous owner's wishes and ...
Supplied

A sign near Uluru in the Australian Northern Territory, which asks people to respect the indigenous owner's wishes and not climb to the summit.

The clash of cultures exposed by Cook's pose is not the first time a minority cultural viewpoint has been dismissed as unimportant by the dominant culture.

In 2009 while on a holiday in New Zealand, Canadian Inuit woman Seeka Lee Veevee Parsons spoke out about how offensive Eskimo lollies were to her people.

There was plenty of sympathy for her viewpoint and acknowledgement the term Eskimo has long been known to be offensive, but in the end Cadbury stuck with the name describing it as "iconic".

This year, a vehicle ban will come into force for five volcanic mountains in Auckland, including Maungakiekie or One ...
Chris McKeen

This year, a vehicle ban will come into force for five volcanic mountains in Auckland, including Maungakiekie or One Tree Hill. The decision was made for safety reasons and to protect the cultural landmark.

In 2015, a group of British tourists who stripped naked and took photos on top of Malaysia's Mt Kinabalu were blamed for causing a earthquake which killed 16 people and arrested.

In Western media coverage the scandal wasn't so much that the tourists had knowingly breached protocols but that anyone could be stupid enough to think they somehow their actions led to the quake. 

Closer to home, the debate has raged in recent years about whether climbers should be banned from the summit of one of Australia's most notable landmarks and busiest tourist attractions - Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock.

Maori academic Dr Farah Palmer says the basis of the Treaty of Waitangi is a commitment that Maori and Pakeha work ...
Supplied

Maori academic Dr Farah Palmer says the basis of the Treaty of Waitangi is a commitment that Maori and Pakeha work together to understand each other and respect different values and perspectives.

Seen as part of a living cultural landscape, Uluru was officially returned to traditional owners the Anangu people in 1985 and as guardians they ask for visitors not to climb to the summit because of the cultural significance it has in Aboriginal culture. 

Their request was largely ignored and ridiculed for years but since signs went up explaining their position only 20 per cent of visitors decide to climb to the top, as opposed to the 74 per cent of visitors who scaled it in 1990. 

READ MORE:
Opinion: Mt Taranaki Playboy playmate's summit strip is insensitive, but smart
Disrespect being shown for sacred Maori Pa site near Oakura
Cultural crossroads over street names in Taranaki

Rob Needs, of Top Guides, says Mt Taranaki is being disrespected by visitors, who fail to understand cultural, ...
Fairfax NZ

Rob Needs, of Top Guides, says Mt Taranaki is being disrespected by visitors, who fail to understand cultural, environmental and safety considerations.

In a survey by Parks Australia, which jointly manages Uluru alongside its traditional owners, it was found 98 per cent of visitors would still visit even if the climb was officially closed.

A Parks Australia spokeswoman said while "inappropriate" behaviour did still happen from time to time, most of the visitors were respectful of the cultural value the area has.

"They visit our park, get an understanding of Anangu culture and respect it," she says.

MAKING A CHANGE

There is no doubt some parts of Maori culture are celebrated and widely respected. The Ka Mate haka often performed by the All Blacks is arguably the most internationally recognisable part of the New Zealand culture and both revered and loved at home. 

But other elements of Maori culture don't always enjoy the same support. Officially one of the country's three languages since 1987 the use of Te Reo Maori can still be controversial. 

Whether to put the H back into Whanganui in 2009 was so divisive to the community the council held a referendum and a recent proposal to use Maori road names along the new Kapiti expressway in Wellington was criticised by some as an exercise in political correctness.

READ MORE:
Uruguayan energy drink company 'bastardises' Maori culture
How can you criticise me about my culture?
Hypocrisy over the haka

On the other hand Hinewehi Mohi's decision in 1999 to sing the national anthem only in Te Reo before a rugby test match in England caused an uproar but 20 years later, it is likely few people would even bat their eyelids at the prospect.

The recent dual naming of six New Plymouth landmarks with their traditional Maori names was most notable for the lack of discussion it created and in Auckland the recommendation by the Maunga Authority to remove livestock from the city's volcanic cones and ban vehicle access to the summits is similarly happening with more understanding than kickback.  

Maori academic Dr Farah Palmer, of Massey University says the country is at a "crossroads" in terms of its cultural identity.

"I think the world is changing. We're getting the message that diversity is something that is happening," she says.

She says the basis of the Treaty of Waitangi is a commitment that Maori and Pakeha work together to understand each other and respect different values and perspectives. And there was an increasing trend of people taking a stand when they feel a line has been crossed, Palmer says.

"They are no longer letting these things slide," she says.

It's this leadership which promotes social change, but also it is time and a willingness to understand each other's perspectives that is bringing about these changes.

"We don't live in isolation from one another and we all have an impact on one another," she says.

Rob Needs, of Top Guides guiding business, makes a living on Mt Taranaki and has found working with iwi beneficial to himself and his operation.

As part of gaining a Department of Conservation concession to work on the mountain, the business had to sit down with iwi, an experience he describes as a "great opportunity."

"There wasn't really dos and don'ts. It was requests and understandings," he says. 

From what he sees on a regular basis,  Mt Taranaki is being disrespected and it's not just cultural values which are being trampled on.

People take risks with their safety and visitors leave rubbish and human waste on the mountain.  

Needs believes more needs to be done to  educate people, especially visitors, about Maori cultural values and the important place the mountain holds in the region.

"It shapes us and binds us together," he says. "It is the life force of our province."

Ngawhare's recent public battering won't put him off speaking up again for what he knows to be right.

For him, Mt Taranaki is not "just a hill" - it links him to his culture, his iwi, hapu and whanau, it's part of the very essence of who he is.

Being an optimist is also part of his persona.

He thinks the tide will turn to the point where Maori tikanga and practice is widely accepted and protected in New Zealand.

"It will be when we get this critical mass of people who are on the same waka," he says. 

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

Man dead after crash

The Highway is closed in both directions following the crash.

A man has died and another person taken to hospital with serious injuries after a three-car crash in Kumeu, West Auckland.

Dog walker hit by car

Auckland's Tamaki Drive is a busy thoroughfare.

Woman critically injured and one of her dogs dead after being hit by car near Auckland yacht club.

NZ's 'face of poverty' video

Lynley Beazley says she would not be able to survive without food parcels from The Salvation Army.

Lynlie Beazley has $22 a week left for food. It's been two years since she ate fresh fruit.

Gang beneficiary runs $6m property video

Head Hunters east chapter president Wayne Doyle (file photo).

Notorious gang leader believed to the target of major police operation.

Wellington

'Gay village' vetoes church union

Sara Rimmer, left, and Alexandra Saunders were refused a church wedding in St Peter's Anglican Church in Paekākāriki, on ...

Paekākāriki is known for being liberal. But not when it came to Alex and Sara's wedding.

Winds close hill road

The Rimutaka Hill Road was closed due to high winds on Monday night.

Strong winds cause closure of SH2 over Rimutaka Hill, and disrupt flights.

Who'll be Lester's new 2IC?

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester, right, will announce his replacement for Deputy Mayor Paul Eagle within the next ...

Councillor with less than a year's experience in the mix to be new deputy mayor.

Turfed out by Wellington's wind video

Karori artificial turf blown away.

Contractors laid artificial turf in Karori, but underestimated the capital's infamous breeze.

Canterbury

Christchurch rolls out red carpet video

The Changeover's two leads. Kiwi Erana James plays Laura Chant, while British actor Nicholas Galitzine plays Sorensen ...

The stars were out for the premiere of The Changeover, based on Margaret Mahy's spooky novel.

$3.4m budget blowout

Christchurch City Council chief executive Karleen Edwards. The council has overspent by $3.4 million on personnel, ...

The council's spend on personnel has blown out by $3.4m – mainly due to hiring consultants to fill vacancies.

Whitebaiter river death 'tragic'

Helen Wood died at Kairaki Beach, in North Canterbury, on Friday night. The beach is popular with fishers and ...

Helen Wood reversed her trailer onto the beach before her car went into the river with her inside.

Sex worker bylaw faces axe

Police no longer support a bylaw preventing prostitutes working in residential areas. Christchurch City Council staff ...

Residents enraged at council back-down from banning sex work outside their homes.

Waikato

Preparing for peak kitten

Waikato SPCA expects to help at least 3000 animals this calendar year, many of them kittens.

Breeding season is getting longer and this year is expected to be the busiest yet.

Search for fisherman

Police and the coastguard looking for a missing fisherman at Papanui Point at Ruapuke.

Emergency services are searching for person who fell into the water at Ruapuke, near Raglan.

Powered parachute crashes

The powered parachute crashed on takeoff.

Man in powered parachute crashed on take-off, hitting a metal bollard.

Man struck by tree dies

The man was out chainsawing trees when one fell and struck him. He died at the scene.

Man chainsawing on a rural Coromandel property has died after a tree fell on him.

Taranaki

New lattes: Novelty or nutritional?

Turmeric and beetroot lattes are becoming popular but won't be replacing anyone's flat white or cappuccino any time soon.

Turmeric and beetroot lattes are trendy and tasty but aren't a miracle health cure.

'Undesirable' gully

Martin Moeller goes through Lucy Gully a few times a week and is disappointed that it has become a dumping ground.

A scenic redwood forest in Egmont National Park is becoming a dumping ground, a neighbour says.

'I want my pig back'

The wild pig that had been wandering around New Plymouth has been caught and will be taken to live on a farm.

A suburban sow gone wild has been caught, but her owner will huff and puff for the return of the piggy, pig, pig.

Taranaki lifesavers scoop awards

Todd Velvin won the DHL Instructor of the year award at the Surf Life Saving awards.

Todd Velvin, DHL Instructor of the Year, says surf lifesaving is "pretty hard" to give up.

Manawatu

Loud jets irk residents video

Sanson resident Bill Tooley points to where fighter jets have been flying over his home.

Could howling pets and shaking houses become the new norm in Sanson?

Gorge options given

The 13 alternative route options are available for public viewing and comment on the NZTA website.

Thirteen alternative routes to the Manawatū Gorge have been laid out for the public to discuss.

Immigration fraud

Mohammad Khan was under pressure from family when committing immigration fraud, the Palmerston North District Court heard.

His mother was denied entry to New Zealand eight times, so he lied to authorities to get her in.

Fletcher Reinforcing expands

Fletcher Reinforcing Levin branch manager Donny Smith and administrator Jen Syme at the company's Main Rd South site.

Fletcher Reinforcing's Levin branch is to hire 25 new staff.

Nelson

Revved up over hobby

04092017 NEWS PHOTO BRADEN FASTIER / STUFF
Preston Brunell of Stoke Mechanical and Tyres.

Nelson man Preston Brunell has got plenty of mileage from his lifelong love of custom cars.

New marine frontiers

Dr Serean Adams, Cawthron aquaculture group manager at the Cawthron Aquaculture Park.

New species and technologies will increase resilience of aquaculture stock for the future, industry told.

Life-changing loss

15092017 NEWS PHOTO BRADEN FASTIER / NELSON MAIL
Margaret Lacy holds a picture of her late husband Peter Lacy who had ...

Dementia affects tens of thousands of Kiwis, eventually taking everything from them.

Wet spring for region

It's been a wet September in the Nelson/Tasman region, with higher than average rainfall.

Spring starts out on the wrong foot in Nelson but it's not all bad news.

Marlborough

Love is wild

Rebecca Stoner, a florist at Forget Me Not, left, and Jessica Bunting, designer at Betty and Co, work on one of their al ...

It can be pretty wild trying to organise a wedding, especially these days.

Looking to the future

National's Stuart Smith, centre, celebrates with his family, from left, Hugo Smith, Fenella Smith, Julie Smith and Louis ...

As results are revealed, what's next for the winners and losers?

Librarian appeals apology order

Former Rai Valley Area School librarian Faye Leov in 2010 after receiving an apology from the school board for her ...

A former school librarian behind a defamatory letter claiming her former boss was a bully is to appeal a judge's decision to make her apologise.

Care switch 'upsetting'

Pamela Duffy has built up a close relationship with her carers, who will no longer be visiting her at home after the ...

For the past two years, she has built up a relationship with her carers. Next week, she may never see them again.

South Canterbury

Craigmore a designer's 'dream' video

Olympian Jock Paget is being hosted at Craigmore Station for the first fundraising event for a proposed new eventing course.

Olympian throws support behind proposed world class eventing course at Craigmore Station.

Fine weather back

A severe weather warning was in place for heavy winds in Canterbury on Monday morning.

The majority of South Canterbury is expected to have fine weather on Tuesday.

Call for model plane size limits

South Canterbury Model Aero Club vice-president Robbie Hellewell launches his Parkzone Visionair AS3X aircraft into the ...

Safety concerns prompt SC Aero Club to call for more rules around model aeroplanes.

Mechanics recall bygone era

Former workmates, from left, Bernie Foster, Allan Averis and Gordon Hutcheon check out some of the old tractor models ...

Three former Timaru colleagues take a trip down memory lane.

Otago

Fire victim's family 'gutted'

A Housing New Zealand house where the body of a man was found after a fire.

Heartbroken family speaks of their devastation in losing their father in a house fire.

False alarms go off due to thunder

A thunder and lightning storm hit Queenstown and Central Otago on Monday morning.

Lightning and thunder storm cuts keep fire brigade volunteers busy in Queenstown.

Family 'wrecked' as search suspended

Police are still appealing for sightings of missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe.

The search for missing man Stephen Lowe has been suspended.

Two MPs for Clutha-Southland

Clutha-Southland New Zealand First candidate Mark Patterson watches his leader Winston Peters, give his coalition speech ...

Clutha-Southland has a new New Zealand First MP, Lawrence farmer Mark Patterson.

Southland

Meridian 'flooding my family farm' video

Looking out over the Hollyburn creek which has been flooded by water from the Waiau river.

Every time Meridian Energy releases the Manapouri dam, Thomas O'Brien loses another chunk of farmland.

Family 'wrecked' as search suspended

Police are still appealing for sightings of missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe.

The search for missing man Stephen Lowe has been suspended.

And then there were four

Mark Patterson: secure at 7th.

Southland will have four MPs. How much influence is that?

South's election night

It was all smiles for Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie, pictured here with her husband Mark Billcliff.

Invercargill will have two MPs in Parliament, Labour's Liz Craig and National's Sarah Dowie.

Ad Feedback