This week in the Timaru District Court, a pilot was fined $3750 for what Judge Joanna Maze described as the "gravely offensive" act of hovering above the peak, an offence under the Mt Cook National Park bylaws.
Arowhenua Marae spokesman Terewa King said the chopper hovering up there was very disrespectful as the mountain is *gasp!* sacred: "It is considered tapu, especially the head at the top; the head is considered the most sacred part of the body. The helicopter is like an annoying fly buzzing around your head. The belief is when you break a tapu you are inviting something bad to you, especially when it is something of high standing like the mountain." (irrelevant) He added there's a safety issue too: "At that height it only takes one down- draught and there is going to be loss of life." (relevant)
Ok, so - once again! - let's get realistic here. The mountain is a hunk of inanimate rock, high, steep, dangerous. Downdraughts at any height don't take prisoners. And yeup, standing on the very tip of any mountain is big-time risky.
But Mt Cook is NOT a living person. Maori may believe that, and that's fine, they're welcome to that belief among themselves. If a climber goes to the very tip of any mountain, he does so at his own risk - he is not facing the wrath of a malevolent maori mountain monster, but rather the dangers of the extreme environment.
If a chopper does the same, not only is it risking the weather, but also any aviation rules applicable in that area.
Our courts - Judge Joanna Maze, take note - are not the place for maoridom's hoodoo ideas to be imposed on the majority of NZ. For the learned judge to describe the chopper pilot's action as "gravely offensive" is letting her PC emotions get the better of the legislation. By all means, if the pilot broke applicable laws, then sting him...but puuh-leez! Keep the voodoo away from common sense.
Would a maori tramper, stranded on a mountain slope, turn a rescue helicopter away because it was a "fly buzzing around the head" of a living breathing peak? Hmmmm, let me think...er...um...