Our history and stories under close scrutiny at heritage forum
October 30, 2023 | Stories

By David Watt

Taranaki Heritage Month kicked off with heritage sector leaders addressing a range of topics in a panel discussion in New Plymouth.  

Our Chief Executive, Andrew Coleman, set the scene on the topic ‘Who owns history and who gets to tell the story’ with a focus on the performance expectations of Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. He told stories around our mahi across the country, reinforcing the importance of understanding the history of our land and our Māori heritage, and about building partnerships with Māori to tell our stories through heritage listing processes.   

Liana Poutu, Pouwhakarae (Chair) Te Kotahitanga ō Te Atiawa, who was responsible for Te Atiawa’s treaty settlement case, spoke about the challenges faced in legal submissions at Treaty settlement hearings. She said everyone had a right to tell their story, to put their case, and that heritage is a tangible thing.  

Richard Shaw, Professor of Political Studies at Massey University who has written several publications on Pākehā memory, talked about instances in which Pākehā settler stories held some things up to the light, but forgot other more troublesome aspects of our history. He linked many of his observations to his family’s early Irish connections, with a family member who later served with the Armed Constabulary in Taranaki in 1881. He drew attention to where suffering and loss has been overlooked in our history narrative.  

Professor Peter Adds, historian in Māori Studies at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, and a former member of our Board during the 1990s, covered a range of issues to understand and tell our history,  including the Foreshore and Seabed legislation and the Treaty. He put a strong emphasis on better preparing teachers in New Zealand to teach history, being strongly critical of much of what is being being taught today.    

Keri Opai, lifelong educator and teacher of Māori language, won endorsement for his appeal to fully embrace te reo Māori, to build partnerships with Māori to recognise that the Māori world is a universe of cultural beliefs, and that language is a key element in understanding and to tell our stories.   

He concluded with a waiata with the audience warmly joining in.

With the festival off to an enthusiastic start, those in attendance were looking forward to supporting the wide-range of festivals events on offer around the district. The festival runs from 1 October to 5 November. Go to Heritage Taranaki to find out more. 

Taranaki Heritage Month
Coleman, Andrew
Poutu, Liana
Shaw, Richard
Adds, Peter
Opai, Keri

David Watt | Senior Outreach Advisor Regional Services
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