A few weeks ago, the Haka Ka MateAttribution Act 2014 was passed into law. This Act gives effect to provisions contained in the Ngāti Toa Rangatira Deed of Settlement that relate to the haka Ka Mate. Composed by the Ngāti Toa leader Te Rauparaha, Ka Mate has evolved into something that is seen as a national haka, performed by many of New Zealand’s national sporting teams.
As the statement of association set out in the Act makes clear, although Ka Mate is perceived as being symbolic of New Zealand identity, Ngāti Toa see this haka as being inextricably bound up with their own tribal identity:
The haka Ka Mate is regarded by Ngāti Toa Rangatira as one of the legacies of Te Rauparaha. Given the role of Te Rauparaha in Ngāti Toa Rangatira history, the connection between Ngāti Toa Rangatira and the haka Ka Mate is significant, and it forms an integral part of Ngāti Toa Rangatira history, culture, and identity.
The Act (and the provisions in the Deed of Settlement that it implements) is designed to address long-standing concerns Ngāti Toa have had about the performance and use of Ka Mate. The Tribunal heard evidence relating to Ka Mate in its Wai 262 inquiry and in Ko Aotearoa Tēnei: A report into claims concerning New Zealand law and policy affecting Māori culture and identity (2011) the general thrust of Ngāti Toa’s concerns were outlined as follows:
Te Ariki Kawhe Wineera, a direct descendant of Te Rauparaha, is concerned about the misuse of Ka Mate in various New Zealand and overseas commercial ventures. While some renditions of the haka are respectful, many simply ignore the cultural values inherent in the composition, and some are unquestionably offensive – including, for example, an Italian television advertisement for Fiat cars in which a group of women perform a mock haka. Mr Wineera wishes to protect the integrity of Ka Mate, as well as the values that underlie it. He also wishes to ensure that in circumstances where Ka Mate is performed respectfully and with the consent of his iwi, Ngāti Toa receives at least some of the commercial benefits that might flow from that use. He argued that Ngāti Toa’s kaitiakitanga [guardianship] in respect of Ka Mate should be recognised in law.
In this Act, the Crown acknowledges the significance of Ka Mate as a taonga of Ngāti Toa Rangatira and as an integral part of their history, culture and identity. The Act also provides that any publication of Ka Mate for commercial purposes and communication of Ka Mate to the public must include a statement that Te Rauparaha was the composer of Ka Mate and a chief of Ngāti Toa Rangatira. This legislation will be reviewed after 5 years of enactment to consider whether the interests of Ngāti Toa Rangatira relating to Ka Mate are sufficiently protected.
One thing that is obvious but interesting in the case of Ka Mate is that Ngāti Toa are not attempting to prevent the haka being performed, but rather wish to ensure that its integrity is maintained and that the mana of Te Rauparaha and Ngāti Toa are acknowledged. According to media reports, Ngāti Toa have good relationships with the NZ Rugby Football Union, other national sports teams, and institutions such as the army and police who use Ka Mate.
This Act responds to some of the particular issues faced by Ngāti Toa in relation to Ka Mate. However, these issues around Ka Mate also point to some of the wider questions about the protection of traditional knowledge within the context of an intellectual property rights system primarily designed to address other types of issues.