Wednesday, April 24, 2024

ALTERNATIVE VIEW: Unnecessary war of words

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I found the statement by Māori Council chair Matthew Tukaki that “Fonterra should stick to milking cows instead of milking Māori” offensive. We all know what milking cows is about but milking a situation is quite different and is not a proper way to describe anything or anyone in my book.
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I found the statement by Māori Council chair Matthew Tukaki that “Fonterra should stick to milking cows instead of milking Māori” offensive.

We all know what milking cows is about but milking a situation is quite different and is not a proper way to describe anything or anyone in my book.

The definition of milking is “exploiting or defrauding by taking small amounts of money over a period of time”. The Cambridge Dictionary describes the term as “getting as much money or information out of someone as possible, often in an unfair or dishonest way”.

For the record, I don’t believe it is remotely credible to accuse Fonterra of milking anything except cows.

The issue was all about Fonterra wanting to register several Māori language words for its Kapiti cheese range.

My view is that it is a good and proper thing to do and it reflects well on New Zealand as a whole.

Looking at the big picture, we are going to have to change a lot of the names we use to describe our cheeses.

The European Union wants to ban us from using names like feta, mozzarella, parmesan and gorgonzola, to name a few. It makes good sense to me to use uniquely NZ names, including Te Reo.

Obviously not from Tukaki’s view.

The storm has developed over the attempt by Fonterra to register 12 names for its cheeses. These are names that have been around for ages, including Kikorangi, Kowhai and Kapiti. I remain unaware of Māori being “milked” by Fonterra owning those brands.

Fonterra’s director of inclusion and Māori strategy Tiaki Hunia was both measured and dignified in his rebuttal of the ‘milking’ accusation.

“It’s been a move to ensure the correct use of Te Reo on our Kapiti-based products”, Hunia said. 

“It will not impinge on the wider use of those words”.

The problem has been that Kapiti has been used as a brand since 1998, but without the macron. Fonterra was simply correcting a mistake and good on it for doing that.

Hunia made the further point that the word Kowhai had been trademarked 12 times already on products from paint to cosmetics. He believed there could be an element of “picking on Fonterra” from Tukaki’s rhetoric.

I believe he had a valid point.

I must confess I hadn’t heard of Hunia before the milking incident, but he comes across as an impressive, effective and low-key kind of operator.

His hope is that “as Fonterra’s relationship with iwi strengthens the co-operative will get access to a broader range of people who have the potential to become directors”.

Hardly Fonterra milking Māori in my view.

I found Tukaki’s use of language unnecessarily inflammatory.

“I think all Māori would agree with me that a corporate entity sure as hell does not own the use of Māori words and phrases,” Tukaki said.

Fonterra’s response was that if the trademarks were granted they would only relate to use on milk and milk products.

Tukaki also accused Fonterra of “pure arrogance” to think it has the right to even attempt to lay claim to Māori words and phrases. I didn’t think it was Fonterra being arrogant.

Fonterra’s response was to say the words would only be trademarked for the narrow product categories they operated in.

Tukaki wants to give a “good talking to” to whoever signed off on it. Spare me.

While Tukaki claims that all Māori agree with him, it is also interesting to note that between 70% and 75% of Māori-owned dairy farms supply Fonterra. That indicates they must be more than satisfied with the behaviour and performance of the co-operative.

Fonterra has 19,593 employees, many of them Māori. It would be interesting to survey them to find out if any were feeling milked. 

I could go on but if Tukaki wants me to take him and the Māori Council seriously, he could temper his language and approach. Sticking to facts would help as well.

There are several additional points. The first is that the Māori Advisory Committee, an independent body, makes the decision on the appropriate use of Māori language.

The second is that Fonterra’s choice of brand is descriptive. For example, the proposed kakato brand means delicious. Pakari means firm and kirimi means cream. To me that is logical and doesn’t milk anyone or anything.

Fonterra’s response is that they’re not owning the words they’re owning how they are used in the context of cheese. What’s wrong with that?

I suppose an alternative would be to just use the Queen’s English and describe a firm cheese as firm and a delicious cheese as delicious. I’m sure the Queen wouldn’t accuse Fonterra of milking her subjects.

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