The personal turned political at a weekend discussion to mark the closing of the major touring exhibition 'Kermadec – Lines in the Ocean'.
Six of the nine artists who travelled to the Kermadecs in 2012 were there to describe their profound experiences and how the trip has informed their work since then, a number expressing support for the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill announced in September 2015.
But Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox said that many Maori were unhappy with how the bill had been progressed.
'We are not opposed to a sanctuary but we want the (Treaty) rights that we fought so hard for to be respected'. We must be present in consultations.
She pointed out that a 'rahui' (restricting tapu) is already protecting the waters around Rangitahua (Raoul Island), put in place voluntarily by iwi who have customary fishing rights there: 'This is already a respected place for Maori for centuries'..we have been gifting it for a long time.'
'If legislation can be overwritten without consultation here, it could be overridden elsewhere,' she said. 'I see hypocrisy in the fact that the government 'overnight' declared a sanctuary and yet is allowing oil drilling in a neighbouring area,' she said.
The Kermadecs were a replenishing point for Maori migrating by canoe to New Zealand. As at Wairarapa Moana (Lake Wairarapa), they had to be skilled at managing natural resources for their very survival, said Fox. Protocols were observed ahead of celebrations, for example, so that kaimoana would not be depleted.
Photographer and videographer Bruce Foster said history showed that 'corporates will continue fishing up until the last fish has been taken'. New Zealand must honour its guardianship of the region.
Dame Robin White, who is Patron of Aratoi, said the Kermadecs were linked to Wairarapa Moana as New Zealand's long finned eels travel from our local rivers through the region to their breeding grounds near Tonga.
Reflecting on the varied opinions of the afternoon, she said Aratoi itself was a sanctuary: 'This is a vital marae for us to learn about each other.'
Caption: (from left to right) Panelists Marama Fox MP, Dame Robin White, Gregory O’Brien, Elizabeth Thomson and Bruce Foster. Behind them is the huge tapa Rangitahua by Robin White (with Ruha Fifita), honouring a group of sick Tokelauans destined for slave labour in Peru who were offloaded and died at Raoul Island in 1860.