A picture of glamour model, Jaylene Cook, posing naked atop of Mount Taranaki has been causing a stir on social media. Traditionally known as Taranaki Te Mounga Tapu, the "cheeky" snap has caused offence with iwi leaders and members.
According to local history, all Taranaki tribes trace their genealogy back to "Koro Taranaki", and some members have expressed their dismay at the risqué photo.
Ms Cook posted her Instagram photo with the caption: "WE DID IT!! This was BY FAR the hardest thing I have ever done! Both mentally and physically. 2 minutes out of the car park I was already hurting, sweating and ready to turn back 😂 But it's amazing what you can accomplish with the encouragement and support of your partner! I could not have done this without you babe @thejoshshaw!"
Matehuirua Limmer (Te Atiawa / Poutama) told Māori Television that Mt Taranaki was their ancestor and he is seen as a living being.
“We females would never stand naked in front of him, we have personified our koroua, would you walk on your grandfather? We relate it in the same respect,” says Limmer.
Te Reo o Taranaki Chairman Te Poihi Campbell says, “It's pure bad behaviour, insensitive. It damages the reputation and takahi’s on the mana of our mounga.”
Trenton Martin (Te Atiawa) says, “He is a personification of us as a people and we always acknowledge him first in our pepeha. Absolutely I am offended by this, we can’t make them not do it, but we can moan about it!”
Martin explains all mountains throughout the country are seen as personifications of tupuna, “New Zealand knows our culture. Ngāti Porou would hit the roof if it was done on Hikurangi.”
Campbell remembers Te Whiti O Rongomai, Tohu Kākahu, Ratana and other spiritual leaders were known to have visited the sacred waterfall Te Rere o Kapuni which flows from the slopes of the mounga. He says the waters were used for healing, baptisms and hold a lot of mana for local iwi.
“The comments made by the Mayor and Spokesman for Venture Taranaki show that the wider community is not culturally aware enough to identify poor behaviour. A lot of work needs to be done to bring them up to speed,” says Campbell.
Martin says, “It sends the wrong message that this is ok when it gets support."
Moving forward there was a clear message from iwi members that non-Māori must be educated and respect the beliefs of Māori.
“If we takahi the mana of the mounga we takahi the mana of the people,” says Martin.
Ms Cook will appear on Kawe Kōrero Reporters tonight with her photographer to share her experience on Mt Taranaki.
Venture Taranaki were contacted for comment but are yet to reply.