Faafoi is far from helpful when asked how business people can avoid being accused of causing cultural offence

The makers of Indiginous gin had a sobering experience after getting the approvals they thought they required from this country’s trade marking and branding authorities.  Their brand name was approved and they went to market with the gin they make at Reikorangi Valley on the Kapiti Coast, only to be intimidated into rebranding and remarketing their product by people who barraged them and their retail outlets with a campaign of abuse and threats.

The owners of a Wellington shop which called itself Huruhuru were reported to have been similarly bombarded with abuse and threats after it emerged the name of their business could mean pubic hair.

The owners of the shop, Aynur and Ercan Karakoc, said they had wanted a name to represent New Zealand and had gone through the proper process without any issues arising.  They say the brand name was approved by IPONZ’s Māori Advisory Committee and they assumed therefore it would not be offensive.

Thus the principals of two businesses – at least – have been harassed and accused of causing cultural offence despite seeking the proper authorisations from the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) and consulting its Maori Advisory Committee.

IPONZ is the government agency responsible for granting and registering intellectual property rights. It is part of the New Zealand Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.

The Minister of Business, Innovation and Employment is Kris Faafoi.

Alas, he is unwilling or reluctant to discuss this issue.

In response to Point of Order’s questions, his press secretary advised:

“The Minister doesn’t wish to comment.”

 Point of Order had said we hoped Minister Faafoi could reassure business people about the merits of dealing with Intellectual Property of New Zealand, especially its Maori advisory committee.

We explained we were asking because of the experiences of the owners of the Wellington shop, Huruhuru, and the makers of Indiginous gin who had sought approval to Trademark the name “indiginous”.  After having been granted the Trademark they were pressured by a campaign of abuse to undertake an expensive rebranding.

We noted that a Māori cultural advisor, Karaitiana Taiuru, had been quoted in the New Zealand Herald as saying the word “indiginous” was “definitely offensive”.

He said:

“ There’s two different angles for me. Mixing and matching the word indigenous which in itself is an identity word of importance to indigenous people all around the world and locking that into an alcoholic topic which is also offensive to most indigenous peoples”.

Point of Order drew attention to our understanding that this is the same Karaitiana Taiuru who sits on IPONZ’s Maori advisory committee, which (the gin company contends) did not raise objections to the use of the trade mark.

The gin makers said they had thought seriously about sticking with the name, because of the IPONZ approval.  But the attacks became more vicious on the Facebook pages of their customers, the liquor retailers, and they went back to the drawing board to start again with the branding.

Not cheap.

In the light of these experiences, we asked:

“Would the Minister advise business people to avoid using Maori names or branding?

“Otherwise, what advice can the Minister give to business people who have gone through or who are considering going through the approval process – including consultation with the Maori advisory committee – only to find they are subject to or may become subject to abusive campaigns from people whose key concern (one suspects) is the use of Te Reo by non-Maori for commercial purposes?”

A refusal to comment is hardly the stuff of ministerial responsibility.


7 thoughts on “Faafoi is far from helpful when asked how business people can avoid being accused of causing cultural offence

  1. The gin debacle was in March and I tried a different tactic at the time with this email to the gin makers –

    “Hey Simon & Chris – Are you two blokes woke or just plain balls-less? – this is what I sent to the local Naki reporter – “Social media backlash for cultural appropriation sees New Zealand gin bottle label dropped” should read “Gutless gin makers feel they are up tūtae creek without a hīrau and cower to the demands of social justice warriors”. Pathetic! FYI – Maori are not the indigenous race – they just want you to think that – they were originally immigrants like all other New Zealander’s families – imagine if we as New Zealander’s demanded our particular cultural things back that Maori have appropriated eg the English language, alphabet etc. Ridiculous suggestion isn’t it?
    One day this will happen to someone else who is not afraid to stand up for his/her rights as a free-thinking New Zealander and they will tell this minuscule bunch of New Zealand left-wing scum activists to sod of.
    Regards, Russ, New Zealander”

    As usual got no response.
    Anahea ka mutu?


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