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Use Of Māori (People, Images And Practices) In New Zealand’s Diplomacy: An Examination Of Symbolism

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posted on 12.04.2021, 02:24 by Nicola Ngawati

The network of diplomatic posts operated by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (the Ministry) represent New Zealand on the international stage. Staffed by a combination of diplomatic and locally engaged staff, these posts are New Zealand’s face to the world. A small proportion of the diplomatic staff are Māori (indigenous). Māori art and imagery are used extensively throughout these posts. This research examines the use of Māori (people, images and practices) in New Zealand’s diplomacy. In particular, how specific aspects of New Zealand’s diplomatic practice draw on Māori cultural practices or imagery and what is intended or understood by the symbolism inherent in their use. In the context of the wider physical environment utilized by New Zealand’s offshore presence, these issues are considered through the theoretical lenses of diplomatic symbolism, architectural diplomacy, representation and the use of works of art as image building diplomacy.

In addition to a series of semi-structured interviews with key Ministry staff and an analysis of relevant documents of interest, case studies are utilized. Two of these examine how New Zealand is physically represented in an overseas posting environment in two Pacific contexts. One, a long-standing diplomatic representation in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands (part of the Realm of New Zealand which is self-governing in free association with New Zealand – with close cultural ties with Māori in New Zealand), and the second in a newer relationship in Noumea, New Caledonia (an overseas territory of France). The final case study – Canberra- considers New Zealand’s close relationship with Australia.

Key research findings illustrate the Ministry (and by extension New Zealand) uses various forms of bicultural symbolism (through the use or display of Māori taonga, objects and art forms) to represent New Zealand internationally. In addition, this use of bicultural symbolism does not adequately consider the disconnect between the outward face of the Ministry and the inward realities (specifically related to the position of Māori staff and the Ministry’s policy function). The research contribution will add to knowledge about New Zealand’s diplomatic thought and practice and address the gap in the literature of how New Zealand has used diplomatic symbolism in relation to Māori to express a collective identity as part of New Zealand’s diplomacy.


Advisor 1

Eichbaum, Chris

Advisor 2

Hassall, Graham

Copyright Date


Date of Award



Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Public Policy

Degree Grantor

Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Government

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Government