Fletcher Building slammed for flawed Māori design on truck

They're calling it a "tā moko", and saying that it is about the companies journey to tikanga Māori.
They're calling it a "tā moko", and saying that it is about the companies journey to tikanga Māori. Photo credit: RNZ / Supplied/ Firth

Businesess that want to tap into Māori culture are being told to consult with iwi advisers first.

This comes after Firth Concrete, a Fletcher Building company, commissioned a Māori and Pasifika design for one of its concrete trucks.

They're calling it a "tā moko", and saying that it is about the companies journey to tikanga Māori.

Te Puke-based artist Michael Collins was asked to come up with the tā moko that could represent the large number of Māori and Pacific employees at Firth. The idea originated within the company's Māori and Pacific leadership programme.

Firth's parent company, Fletcher Building, owns the disputed land at Ihumātao which Māori have been occupying since November 2016. Fletcher Building wants to build about 480 houses on the site, however, mana whenua object, saying it is located next to the Ōtuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve and that it is a significant archaeological site on land considered wāhi tapu by local hapū and iwi.

Collins said the Ihumātao situation prompted him to consider whether he should accept the job, however, by working through "the right people" at Firth he felt it was appropriate to go ahead.

"Every single design that you do you hope that it's treated with the respect... once I pretty much did the design I knew that it was in good hands just through having the kōrero with them."

The design was especially tricky because it had to be suited to the shape of the truck bowl as well as the handles and hatches that had to be worked around.

Collins said the brief was to represent the mix of different ethnicities within the Firth workforce.

"The harakeke weave represents strength, the shark teeth show the journey and the koru is about new life.

"The design process was unique and a fun challenge that I'm really proud of. I've never designed for something like this before.

"This is the biggest project I've done and I think the main element was just trying to design to the specific measurements of the concrete bowl. So I just did my best and left them to work their magic and put it on correctly."

Firth employs more than 650 people and has around 460 concrete trucks.

Art organisation Toi Māori Aotearoa operations manager Tamahou Temara told Morning Report while it had been done with the best intensions there were some inaccuracies.

"Moko is only applied when it is on living tissue, a body, so therefore it becomes null and void when it's put onto a flat surface or in this case, a truck."

He said the company needed a Māori adviser to explain what tikanga Māori was because "they probably just grabbed that word and put it into their press release ... but the wording is something that always needs to be looked at, analysed".

Fletcher Building declined to be interviewed.