Māori Tū

A symbol of endorsement by iwi Māori

About the project

Māori Tū is a major initiative by Iwi Māori to formally support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ('UNDRIP'). Central to this kaupapa (project) is the installation of two whatarangi (elevated storehouses). A wooden original – carved by NZMACI carvers – will be installed in New Zealand while the bronze cast replica – cast in NZMACI’s Foundry – will be presented by Iwi Māori to the United Nations. Negotiations on its exact placement are yet to be completed. 

Concept & Development

The gifting of the bronze whatarangi to the United Nations symbolises iwi Māori and New Zealand’s formal support for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The concept has been developed to represent the wealth and importance of New Zealand’s cultural heritage, which is what the Declaration sets out to protect.

As each wooden piece is carved, it is passed to The Foundry for bronze casts to be made. The process begins with a silicone mould taken of a carving, with wax then poured into the mould and, once set, removed and encased in a ceramic shell. The wax is melted and removed, the shell is pre-heated, and the bronze is then poured. Once the bronze is set, the ceramic shell is removed, revealing the new bronze artwork. 

NZMACI casters will also be making use of the unique natural environment in Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, using water from the sulphur-chloride pools to patina the bronze. 

A key element of the project has been securing nationwide support for the gift. Significant progress has been achieved to date with the support of iwi (tribal) leaders. A formal Declaration formalising iwi Māori support of UNDRIP and the gifting of the whatarangi was signed in November 2014.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its 61st session at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007. 143 countries voted in favour of the UNDRIP. 

While New Zealand was initially one of four countries that voted against the UNDRIP (the others being the United States, Australia and Canada), the New Zealand Government formalised its support for the Declaration in April 2010, acknowledging that iwi Māori hold special status, and that the UNDRIP provides a standard of achievement to be pursued in a spirit of partnership and mutual respect for the realisation of human rights as Tangata Whenua.

In February 2014, at the UN’s Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, the New Zealand Government furthermore agreed to “take concrete measures to ensure the implementation and promotion of the UNDRIP”, stating that it is consistent with the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s unique statement about the protection and promotion of human rights for all New Zealanders.

The UNDRIP sets out minimum standards for the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples and affirms their right to equality and self-determination. It acknowledges that all people contribute to the diversity and richness of civilizations and cultures, and affirms indigenous peoples’ rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health and education. It emphasises the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own social structures, institutions and traditions.

The UNDRIP prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples; acknowledges historic injustices; promotes indigenous peoples’ full and effective participation in all matters that concern them; and recognises their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic, social and cultural development.

While the New Zealand Government has supported the UNDRIP, the Māori Tū kaupapa has been established to confirm direct and formal support for the UNDRIP by iwi Māori. This endorsement is an appropriate and proactive self-determined action that forms a strong foundation for future engagements between iwi Māori and the UN.

This support will be symbolised through the gifting of a whatarangi (elevated storehouse) cast in bronze to the UN in New York City. The whatarangi symbolises the wealth and importance of our cultural heritage and is a symbol of safe-keeping and storage of both tangible and intangible taonga (treasures), and is a tohu (symbol) of identity and cultural wellbeing, including the protection and perpetuation of culture and cultural practices.

About Whatarangi

Whatarangi are elevated storehouses, usually raised on poles to protect items of importance for an iwi or hapū (tribe/subtribe). The purpose of elevating these items was to preserve their special status and to protect people from direct contact, especially from those things used for regulated ceremonies. A whatarangi was selected for the gift to the United Nations as they represent the maintenance of culture and cultural practices.



The Iwi Chairs Forum (ICF)