Parliament's new 'Te Kāhui Mōuri' unveiled last month cost about $500,000.
The pricetag has been criticised by the ACT Party's leader David Seymour. He has called it "tone-deaf" during a cost of living crisis when Kiwis are "being asked to tighten their belts".
"It's about 30 average workers' taxes for a whole year or one average worker's taxes for 30 years to put up a couple of pou," he said.
The new Te Kāhui Mōuri (the Clan of Vitality) on Parliament's forecourt consists of three mōuri (vitality) markers and two carved pou (carved posts) in front of the steps to Parliament, as well as a pare (carved lintel) above the main entrance to the Beehive.
But the Parliamentary Service said it didn't consider the costs unusual "in a project of this scale and complexity".
"Te Āti Awa Taranaki Whānui and others working on this kaupapa have gifted much of their time, commercial expertise, and energy to bring Te Kāhui Mōuri to life," a spokesperson said. "This is reflected in the overall costings being below market value for the entire package."
Kelvin Davis, the Minister for Te Arawhiti Māori Crown Relations, said the recognition of Māori culture outside Parliament has been "a long time coming" and will play "an important role in ensuring that visually, Parliament represents our shared identity".
It was unveiled last month at an event attended by a number of iwi and parliamentary representatives, including Davis, Speaker Adrian Rurawhe, and the chairperson of Taranaki Whānui Kara Puketapu-Dentice.
The Parliamentary Service called it "an enduring physical marker of Parliament's commitment to its partnership with mana whenua (local tribe) and Te Tiriti o Waitangi | The Treaty of Waitangi".
"These taonga welcome everyone who visits Parliament whether it be for diplomacy, work, learning or advocacy and increases public recognition and acknowledgement of the impact Māori culture and leadership has had on our nation."
According to information provided by the Speaker in response to a Written Parliamentary Question, Te Arawhiti contributed $200,000 from its Whai Hononga Statutes and Symbols Fund for the design, development and production.
Davis told Newshub that this fund, which received $1 million in Budget 2021, was established to help "identify Māori leaders, events and kaupapa suitable for honouring through the erection of a monument, statue, or symbol - thereby acknowledging the impact Māori culture and leadership has on our country".
"Te Kāhui Mouri is a physical representation of the partnership between Te Ati Awa Taranaki Whānui and Parliament. The pou, pare and mouri markers depict the rich history of mana whenua from Te Whanganui a Tara and were designed and carved by local tohunga whakairo."
The Speaker said the Parliamentary Service procured the material - timber for the carvings - installation and lighting for about $300,000.
This included engineering and architectural costs, the cost of resource and building consents, metal material costs and other expenses.
"Parliamentary Service did not consider any of these costs unusual in a project of this scale and complexity," a spokesperson for the service said.
"The installation of the Pou in particular was complex and required an innovative structural engineering solution to stand the Pou on the Parliament forecourt."
Seymour said ACT's criticism wasn't of the recognition of Māori culture, with him noting the party had also been critical of the cost of the installation of a slide on Parliament's grounds.
"We think the issue here is that their expense seems outlandish for what we got and what's more the timing of it is really tone-deaf and insensitive to what Kiwis are facing right now."
He was unsure why Te Kāhui Mōuri was installed this year and believed it was potentially a missed opportunity to align the installation with the 185th anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi in 2025.
Seymour also questioned why there was a focus on Te Āti Awa Taranaki Whānui - a local iwi - given Parliament is meant to represent all New Zealanders.
Te Kāhui Mōuri was unveiled just in time for the visit of United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to Wellington last month. A pōwhiri was held for Blinken in front of the two pou.
"The mōuri markers which are one of the three key elements of Te Kāhui Mōuri will play an essential role in powhiri ceremonies which often occur on the Parliament forecourt, and ensure they run according to manawhenua kawa (protocols) and tikanga (customs)," the Parliamentary Service said.