Intellectual property lawyer cautions businesses over use of Māori words

By Te Rina Kowhai

An Intellectual Property lawyer says the use of the word haka on food franchise burger fuel products is inappropriate. The kūmara fries product says Kūmara Fries at Burger Fuel is like eating a Haka'. Burger Fuel says no offense was intended and apologise for any offense caused.

Burger Fuel has likened the eating of kūmara fries to a haka and has some customers thinking twice.

“No the Haka is unique I wouldn't agree with that sorry. Nothing to do with kūmara chips.”

“They're delicious.”

“Nah. If you told me to haka, I would not think of kūmara fries.”

An intellectual property lawyer Lynell Tuffery Huria says the use of the word haka on their food packaging is inappropriate.

“Incorporating something that refers to the Haka which is an important part of Māori tikanga and it forms an important role within Māori society being associated with food in a flippant way is clearly inappropriate.”

In a statement to Te Kāea, a spokesperson from Burger Fuel says they do want to address this issue properly so that they can be respectful of Māori cultural values as they feel this is an important part of being a New Zealand company.

But Huria says using the word haka in this manner creates a sense that Māori culture is free and available for anybody to use in any way.

According to Burger Fuel: Our intent was not to exploit but we merely wanted to reference some aspects of Maori culture as we explained the origin of kūmara as different to the sweet potato often found in other parts of the world. No offense was intended and this has been the first instance that we have been made aware that referencing the Haka on a specific medium would cause offense. We appreciate you bringing this to our attention and apologize for any offense caused.

Burger Fuel says they would still like to take the time in the New Year to address this issue respectfully and appropriately.