Hāpai Te Hauora International Statement against Cultural Appropriation

In January 2017 Hāpai Te Hauora was alerted to the presence of an online gaming product called 'Maori' created by international software company Endorphina Ltd. The game includes images of tāne and wahine Māori, waka, pounamu, stylised bone carvings and a rendition of the haka Ka Mate. The format of the online game resembles a pokie machine and is available free of charge and without age restriction from Endorphina Ltd's website.

The company, which is based in the Czech Republic, claims to celebrate the cultural heritage of our people. The website states:

  • Get on a journey with Maori
  • The Maori slot celebrates the cultural heritage of Maori people living in New Zealand. They are known for their rich mythology, distinctive crafts and performing arts developed during the centuries in a complete isolation.
  • Maori slot features full 3D modelled characters in HD that allows great immersion into the game and the culture of the people."

Sovereignty over representations of cultural icons significant to Māori is enshrined in Te Tiriti o Waitangi and subsequent legislation in New Zealand. We do not believe Endorphina Ltd has been given permission to use mātauranga Māori in the design of this game and its use is particularly offensive to Māori.

Our disgust and anger is threefold:

  1. The unauthorised use of Māori cultural icons for profit by a foreign company with no links to our indigenous people.
  2. The association with gaming is an insult to Māori who suffer disproportionate harm from problem gambling in New Zealand. Māori intellectual property has been used as comforting and familiar inducements, with the potential to lure vulnerable people to online gambling.
  3. The perpetuation of broader issues of cultural appropriation which can occur in any setting, and are frequently harmful insults perpetrated upon Māori by persons completely detached and insensitive to the consequences of their labours.

Respected Māori academic and public health expert Dr Meihana Durie summarises the sentiments of our collective statement: E tautokohia ana te tū ā Hāpai Te Hauora i roto i tēnei take. Kia kaha rā tātou ki te āta tiaki i te mana motuhake o Te Iwi Māori otirā Te Ao Māori.

Nā te hāngai o te haka ki te petipeti moni kua hē kē atu te mahi. He takahi, he tānoanoa hoki i ngā tikanga Māori me ngā āhuatanga o Te Ao Māori pēnei me te haka. He nui te apo me te tou areare o ētahi ki te tahua pūtea ahakoa te aha.

Heoi anō e haruru mai ana Te Iwi Māori me ngā iwi taketake o te ao. Kei te tupu te maharatanga ki aua momo kamupene. Mā roto i to tātou tū ngātahi e taea ana ēnā mahi te aukati.

Endorphina Ltd's abhorrent and unsanctioned misuse of Māori culture in this way is not only a breach of New Zealand laws but is likely to breach similar laws in other jurisdictions. We therefore call on Endorphina Ltd to voluntarily withdraw the product immediately and issue an apology to all Māori.

We call for a specific apology for the grievous insult to Ngāti Toa Rangatira and Ngāi Tahu, the iwi whose special relationship with Ka Mate and pounamu respectively are protected by the Haka Ka Mate Attribution Act 2014, the Ngāi Tahu (Pounamu Vesting) Act 1997 and the 2002 Pounamu Resource Management Plan.

Endorphina Ltd's conduct clearly indicates a need for change within the company to respect third party rights and cultures. We therefore also call for the implementation of policies by the company to ensure protection of the integrity of all indigenous cultures it might seek to 'celebrate' in the way it claims to be 'celebrating' Māori culture in this product.

We trust that now Endorphina Ltd has been made aware of the inappropriate nature of its game and the significant offence it has caused, our plea will be respected and compliance with our requests will be swift. In any event, we have instructed our lawyers to separately write to Endorphina Ltd requiring their compliance with relevant laws.


Lance Norman, CEO Hāpai Te Hauora
Dr. Meihana Durie, Te Wananga o Raukawa, New Zealand
Dr. Papaarangi Reid, Tumuaki and Head of Department of Maori Health at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, New Zealand
Dr Elana Curtis, Public Health Physician and Senior Lecturer Medical at Te Kupenga Hauora Māori, University of Auckland, New Zealand
Ashley Gordon, Managing Director, New South Wales Aboriginal Safe Gambling Services, Australia
Warren Lindberg, Chief Executive Officer, Public Health Association of New Zealand
Grant Berghan, Co-Chairperson in conjunction with Dr Heather Came, for STIR Stop Institutional Racism
Professor Janet Hoek
Dr. Lorna Dyall

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