Hurricanes investigate Poua women's team over 'redneck Government' haka

Hurricanes Poua performed a haka criticising the coalition Government.
Hurricanes Poua performed a haka criticising the coalition Government. Photo credit: RNZ (file)

Story by RNZ

The Hurricanes are investigating the women's team haka that criticised the coalition government labelling it "redneck"

The Hurricanes Poua began their Super Rugby Aupiki season last Saturday with a defeat to the Chiefs Manawa and before the match they used an altered haka with the kaitāraki (leader) called out "karetao o te Kāwana kakiwhero" or "puppets of this redneck government".

Joining the chant, the team acknowledged He Whakaputanga (Declaration of Independence), a contract signed between Ngāpuhi chiefs and the Crown before Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and mana motuhake - Māori sovereignty.

The haka referred to Toitu te Tiriti, a political movement that has taken a stand against coalition government policies on te reo Māori and perceived breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi and encouraged people to "never fold and never bend".

Hurricanes Poua prop and haka leader Leilani Perese said she presented the new haka to the team's management "strategically".

"I sent it to management at the last minute. They were like 'go for it. We back you 100 per cent,'" she said.

Hurricanes bosses are yet to speak publicly on the haka, but RNZ understands chief executive Avan Lee has been briefed and the franchise will comment publicly at some stage.

New Zealand Rugby have also been approached for comment, with a spokesperson saying they would possibly make a statement, but not before the Hurricanes do.

Perese said she's not fazed by any possible backlash.

"I don't care. I believe in what we're saying, I stand by it.

"I believe that in rugby, we have a platform where people watch and listen. And why not use our platform to show our people we will never fold? To tell the government that we are stronger than ever, and we will never go down without a war.

"We wanted it to represent not just Māori, but people of all races and cultures. When we say 'taku iwi tuohu kore e!' that means 'what will always last is our people, we will never fold.'

"Whether we're Māori, Samoan, Tongan, Indian, what have you. I thought it was important for us to say because we've got a lot of other ethnicities in our team. I wanted to make sure it wasn't just about one culture, it's about all of us," she said.

Haka composer Hinewai Pomare (Te Rarawa, Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Pūkenga, Ngāi Te Rangi and Tararā) said she wrote the haka after players reached out, adding the segment to the beginning of the original piece written by Te Wehi Wright.

Sports and Recreation Minister Chris Bishop dismissed claims that the government was "redneck".

Bishop said he disagreed with the haka's message, but said the Poua were entitled to their view.

The Hutt South MP said he will continue supporting the Hurricanes.