NZ First MP Shane Jones has unleashed on a proposal to erect a 30-metre plus statue of a Maori earth goddess on Auckland's Bastion Point, labeling it a "pretentious gesture" of "cultural mimicry".
Yesterday, it emerged that Auckland Council had set aside $1 million in it's 10-year budget, for design and development of a statue of Papatūānuku the Earth Goddess, in a project that had been proposed by Ngāti Whātua Orākei.
Mayor Phil Goff described the project to NZ Herald as having the "potential to be an iconic symbol of Auckland".
However, today speaking to Stuff, Mr Jones ripped into the proposal, questioning the "exclusive rights" Ngāti Whātua Orākei had to promote the earth goddess, and saying it was completely unreasonable for Auckland ratepayers to contribute to it.
"The notion that the ratepayers of Auckland should foot the costs for this cultural mimicry promoted by the Ōrākei hapū is risible," Mr Jones said.
"We need to bear in mind that the Maori up at Ōrākei do not have an exclusive rights to promote a statue in the form of the earth goddess on behalf of anyone other than themselves.
"If they want it for themselves then they should spend their own money and not misrepresent the broader Māori community that a statue, in the form of Christ the Redeemer out of Brazil, is an appropriate expression of Māori identity, or indeed New Zealand identity.
"If such a pretentious gesture is their long-term ambition then pay for it yourselves."
However, Ngāti Whātua Orākei spokesperson Ngarimu Blair said approval from the landowner of Bastion Point where the statue is slated, Ngāti Whātua Trust, had not given approval for the proposal, and it was still in "early days" of planning.
Mr Jones also questioned the spending priorities of Auckland Council with their $1 million contribution, and that he was "astounded" there was "spare change to give to Māoridom's richest hapū" as the Auckland fuel tax rolled out.
"The word Papatūānuku means earth goddess, what are they thinking erecting some massive planet? I would say to you, culturally speaking, their thinking is off the planet," Jones said.
The Regional Economic Development Minister and Associate Finance Minister said far more "rigorous discussion, debate and agreement" with all Auckland stakeholders was needed before the proposal could take any step forward.