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All Blacks' haka challenge gets protection

THE haka challenge made famous by the All Blacks' rugby team was yesterday given back to the Maori tribe whose ancestor devised it with the aim of protecting it from commercial exploitation.

Ka Mate, which is used by the All Blacks before matches as a challenge to their opposition, was originated by Ngati Toa's warrior chief Te Rauparaha in the early 19th Century after he escaped death while being chased by his enemies.

The New Zealand government gave the intellectual property rights of the challenge to the tribe yesterday as part of an agreement to settle grievances going back 160 years.

The tribe also received NZ$121 million (US$63.72 million) and land around the bottom of the North and top of the South Islands.

Ngati Toa has tried several times, but failed, to trademark the haka over the past 10 years to limit commercial abuse.

Renditions of the haka used in international advertising campaigns have provoked outrage amongst Maori, who claimed they undermined its cultural significance.

In 2006, automaker Fiat released an advert featuring Italian women giving a rendition of the challenge, which is only allowed to be performed by men, while in 2007 a bakery produced an animated commercial with gingerbread men performing it.

While Ngati Toa would protect the haka from "inappropriate use," Prime Minister John Key said he did not expect they would be able to claim royalties nor veto its use, particularly by the All Blacks.

"It would be unacceptable for the Crown if there was a charge on New Zealanders or a restriction on New Zealanders for them to have a rendition of Ka Mate," Key said.

"They (the All Blacks) are our national sports team and they have had the rendition of Ka Mate for a long time. I just don't count that in issues of commercial."


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