Maori from Whanganui’s Putiki Marae know all too well how devastating it can be to have no insurance after watching a river run through their meeting room last weekend, leaving 200-year-old carvings badly damaged.
Marae committee chairman Hone Tamehana said: “Insurance-wise we couldn’t get an evaluation on the carvings, with them being original. No insurance company wanted to go near it.”
New Zealand is changing this, with the help of insurer partners NZI
, with significant progress to develop a marae insurance product being made at a recent hui in Wellington.
executive director Steve Walsh said the hui, which included a cross-section of iwi leaders and representatives from central New Zealand Maori communities, helped to break down various misconceptions held by both the insurance sector on what Maori needed, and by Maori on what insurance could do for them.
“Part of the problem is insurers have traditionally seen it as a poor or average risk to insure and as a result the availability and the cost have generally been prohibitive.”
He said: “Marae can involve anything from $15 million worth of assets down to $100,000 so it’s a really wide and varied proposition.
“Essentially we’ve had to break down a really misinformed reputation around what marae assets actually are.”
invited insurer NZI
to get involved in developing the marae insurance product although Walsh said there was a whole raft of other things in the pipeline as well.
’s GM corporate and facilities Michael Carswell was keen to attend the hui, saying it was an opportunity for IAG
to learn how it could respond to the needs of the Maori community.
“Things like how we assess the value of carvings at a marae, the story that goes with their creation and what provisions our policies enable for fixing damage to them.
“We learned that an appropriate policy response may not be to provide replacement, but rather enable the community to rebuild these themselves, since it’s in this way that the story of the carving can be preserved,” he said.
Carswell said another way was to write insurance contracts which take account of particular Maori protocols, or Tikanga, for example performing site blessings prior to a demolition.
Walsh said it wasn’t a priority to write policies in Te Reo Maori due to the challenges of finding literal translations, but there was scope to include some company branding and advertising material.
Walsh said the hui came about following the company’s idea three years ago to introduce a Maori cultural awareness programme for staff wanting to learn basic Te Reo skills and Maori protocols, something he was very keen to do himself.
“There had been lots of feedback from various networks we were involved in that basically the way the insurance industry typically interacted with Maori was done without consultation and a different approach was needed.”
introduced the programme last year with 13 staff members from around the country attending one day per fortnight from July to October.
The programme was delivered following some dialogue with one of their clients, Te Wananga o Aoteoroa.
Welsh-born Walsh, who completed the course and is now following up his Te Reo learning at night school in his own time, said it had given him an appreciation and enthusiasm for all things Maori.
He said he was proud of Marsh
’s efforts saying it felt like they were at the pioneering end of real change in cultural awareness.
“Even though I wasn’t born here, I am a Kiwi and I see a lot of relevance in our day to day society.
“I’ve been in situations where I’ve spoken Te Reo Maori in a business environment, and it’s been very well received.”
Walsh admitted to feeling a little self-conscious at times, such as on a recent flight to Gisborne where he took the opportunity to revise.
“Part of my learning is self-directed. I tend to go to the library and take out kids’ books written in Te Reo Maori. I think it looks quite funny – a big 6’4” Pakeha guy reading Maori kids’ books, but I’m okay with that!
“My approach is if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it properly, so I’ve just immersed myself in it and I’ve had some awesome personal experiences and met some really cool and engaging people.”