Haka to get legal protection under new law

Last updated 05:00 21/04/2014

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Companies looking to hijack the Ka Mate haka without acknowledging its source may run foul of the law under new legislation.

However, the All Blacks and cultural groups will continue to be able to perform the challenge.

Under the Haka Ka Mate Attribution Bill, which had its third reading in Parliament on Thursday, Ka Mate will be recognised as an integral part of Ngati Toa's culture and identity.

Ngati Toa kaumatua Taku Parai said the legislation was as important to the iwi as its $70m Treaty settlement. The haka had been mistreated over the years. "People were using it in all sorts of uncouth ways, on tea towels for example."

It was used by the Spice Girls, and appeared in a Japanese Coca-Cola advertisement and on tourist merchandise.

The bill will mean if the Ka Mate haka is used for commercial gain - such as in sponsors' ads - attribution will be needed.

Exceptions apply for performances, and when it is used for educational and non-commercial purposes. This includes the All Blacks, who performed a version in 1905.

Ka Mate was first performed by Ngati Toa chief Te Rauparaha after a Tuwharetoa woman saved his life by shielding him from his enemies.

Baldwins Intellectual Property lawyer Thomas Huthwaite said the bill gave recognition to Te Rauparaha and Ngati Toa. "This is something that has been neglected for many years."

In 2011, New Zealand Rugby signed a deal with Ngati Toa, allowing the All Blacks the right to continue performing the Ka Mate haka. That agreement would simply continue, Huthwaite said.

But any use of the haka for commercial purposes would need "clear and reasonably prominent" attribution. Simpson Grierson intellectual property partner Earl Gray said the attribution requirement was unlikely to apply outside New Zealand.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples said the Crown recognised the haka's significance to Ngati Toa. "What also pleases me is the impetus in this bill for those who perform Ka Mate to do it properly. In the immortal words of the great All Black captain Buck Shelford, who helped resurrect the correct performance of Ka Mate, ‘Do it f...ing right or don't do it at all!' "

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- Fairfax Media

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