Ma’u Henua

Co-administers the Nacional Rapa Nui Park

Last month, the Chilean National Forestry Service (Conaf) signed an agreement of association with the Ma’u Henuanative committee of Rapa Nui, in which the local Rapanui people will share the administration of the National Park, taking charge of the collecting the entry fees and the administration of the funds, as well as the maintenance and care of the public spaces in this protected, undeveloped area. A timeline of one year was established for the native Islands to receive full administration of this park, today on the list of World Heritage sites.

Ma’u Henua is directed by the Rapanui business school graduate, Camilo Rapu, the driving force behind the GOSPAN (Sustainable Governance of Rapa Nui National Park) project, which was entrusted to him two years ago by the Commission for the Development of Easter Island, to be designed with Conaf.  The central proposal was the total transfer of the administration of the National Park to an autonomous organization of Rapanui people, so that the Islanders themselves could protect the natural and archaeological resources that they inherited from their ancestors.  This project was accepted by the Chilean Minister of the Interior Rodrigo Peñailillo, but upon his resignation, the discussions got set aside. Camilo Rapu states that Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, during her visit to the Island on April 30, picked up the topic again with the commitment that, before she steps down, she would return to formalize the transfer of authority to Ma’u Henua, while Conaf will continue with its traditional functions of reforestation and control of wildfires. Here Rapu is emphatic: “…in such a way that no future government would be able to disavow it.”

According to Rapu, a large part of the Natural Park is abandoned: “Conaf  concentrated on the archaeological centers, such as Rano Raraku, Orongo, Anakena &Tahai, but they aren’t the entire park. The park has almost 7 thousand hectares (27 square miles) and covers 44% of the island’s surface. There is still so much to be done. We must protect all the archaeological centers and we need to preserve more than 25,000 archaeological traces which still exist. We are currently working at Ahu te Peu, building a perimeter fence to keep out the roaming animals and rescue the Hare Paenga(boat-shaped houses) which are at the edge of the cliff. Another objective is the conservation of the wild birds which are in danger and also the native forest. The struggle with wildfires is constant and this is a task that we share with Conaf. Park rangers and guards have been increased from 15 to more than 50 who must care for 26 archaeological sites. Currently 77 Rapanui work with us as patrols, rangers, night watchmen, area bosses, police and administrative team. Now all are receiving work-training and for specialized positions we have searched for young professionals, such as the archaeologist Rafael Rapu. No longer can anyone can say ‘this land is mine and I’ll do what I want’, as I’ve heard in the past. The land isn’t yours.  It belongs to the entire community.  It is everyone’s and we all must become its protectors.  We’ve also begin training for attention to the tourists on the Island. We’ve started from the most simple level …. in the meanwhile, we have to have patience.”

The Board of Directors of the Ma’u Henua Native Community was elected by the members and is presently made up by its president, the vice-president Tavake Atan, treasurer Petero Hey and secretary Marcos Tuki. The requirement for participating in Ma’u Henua are that one is a legal adult and belongs to the Rapanui ethnic group, as well as one of the Honui family communities which have been formed from those with local family names. In addition to the guides from the Rapanui ethnic group, Chilean and foreign guides can work once they are duly accredited and will receive a residence permit. Only in those areas that have not been set up for public visits will it be obligatory to be accompanied by a local guide: “for the simple reason that people are curious and begin to excavate and take away archaeological remains…” states Rapu.

The Commission for Development, which serves as counselors for the Provincial Government of Isla de Pascua, is made up of people from the ethnic group who are also elected by popular vote and has supported the Ma’u Henuain its relations with the national government. By previous agreement with Conaf, for this year the entry fees for the National Park will remain the same, but as of next year they will rise to 30 dollars for continental Chileans and 80 dollars for foreign citizens. Camilo Rapu seems content:  “The new generation will achieve the dreams of their parents and grandparents.