We all need to understand respect for the mountains

Dr Ruakere Hond says Mt Taranaki is a community issue.
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

Dr Ruakere Hond says Mt Taranaki is a community issue.

People need to work together to raise understanding of Maori sacred sites, says Maori community advocate Dr Ruakere Hond.

All Maori around the country need to consider their sacred sites and raised the suggestion of a protocol around what is and isn't acceptable, Hond told Maori Television.

Glamour model Jaylene Cook caused a stir when she posted a nude photo of herself near the summit of Mt Taranaki on Instagram five days ago. The image has generated more than 22,000 likes.

Jaylene Cook says she was unaware she was offending anyone.
INSTAGRAM/Jaylene Cook

Jaylene Cook says she was unaware she was offending anyone.

Hond said there needed to be a lot more understanding around the significance of sites to Maori, but it wasn't just a Maori issue. 

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"It's a discussion we need to have as a community. I know a lot of Pakeha people who value the maunga just as much as Maori, if not more."

He said it's about people agreeing as a wider community that "these [sites] have value for us".

"The onus in the first instance is on Maori so people know what we're talking about."

But he said it wasn't about "writing a law and making it illegal to do this". 

"It's more about raising awareness so people don't do this because they understand, rather than [because] there are punishments."

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He said it was the same deal with Cook. "This isn't about punishment. I can understand, but there are better locations to do that."

There needed to be guidelines around the conditions and meanings of cultural concepts, he said.

"I think that's one of the things that would come out of that discussion. What are the perimeters? What is the concept of respect?"

He said the actual meaning of Maori cultural views was often misunderstood, such as not standing on the summit of the mountain. The issue is "what is the purpose for doing that?"

If someone did that with a reason such as a personal challenge, that was different than just going up and having a picnic because you had nothing better to do, he said.

"The respect then enhances the reason why you're doing the thing that you're doing."

He said the same principle applied to using the mountain commercially - activities such as tourism which enhanced the value of the site and built awareness were fine.

But he said the mountain shouldn't be used in a way "where there is no recognition of that value" - just because "it's a good scene to do it". 

People needed to understand iwi's relationship with the maunga, he said.

He said the maunga is not a living person but Maori personify it as an ancestor and respect it as such.

Tourism Minister Paula Bennett told RNZ that the photo was "quite surprising" but she wasn't offended.

"And while there might be some tourism boost, I hope it doesn't quite take off, because, I think like most people, I've probably seen enough."

 - Stuff

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