Waitangi Day provides new experience for Pacific community leaders and MPs

Pacific community leaders and parliamentary ministers have shared their inaugural Waitangi Day experiences, encouraging more Pasifika to take part in the event's celebrations next year.

6th February, 2021

Waitangi Day provides new experience for Pacific community leaders and MPs

By Elijah Fa'afiu - elijah.fa'afiu@pmn.co.nz

Pacific community leaders and parliamentary ministers have shared their inaugural Waitangi Day experiences, encouraging more Pasifika to take part in the event's celebrations next year.

A group of Pacific community leaders explored the Waitangi treaty grounds yesterday, with Fijian community leader Reverend Levani Rabo acknowledging the importance of understanding the Treaty.

"What touched me when I visited Waitangi Day was the spirit, the mana and I saw two big museums here which kept records of the Maori when they started to settle in this land here.

"That’s why we are here today, to commemorate the celebration and the importance of the Waitangi Treaty for us here and its connection with any people irrespective of whether you’re from the Pacific or other parts of the world."

Cook Island community leader Rosie Blake urges her own community to remember those who have gone before them.

"The Cook Island community in particular should be extra proud because we now have a memorial dedicated to our 500 soldiers under the Maori Battalion and it’s very emotional.​"

Tuvaluan representative Reverend Suamalie Iosefa Naisali shares the same notion.

"It is important for Tuvaluans to contextualise ourselves to the land and its theologies, spirituality and the values of this land and Waitangi’s very important because of its stem in the history of this country."

Pacific community leaders Reverend Suamalie Iosefa Naisali (left) and Rosie Blake (second from left) at today's Waitangi Day celebrations.

During the annual dawn ceremony, Pacific MPs Dr Anae Neru Leavasa, Anahila Kanongata’a Suisuiki and Tangi Utikere were given the honour of saying a prayer in Samoan, Tongan and Cook Island Maori respectively.

Leavasa says it’s a privilege to lead a prayer on his first visit to Waitangi.

"It was my first time here and given that first opportunity to say the prayer in Samoan is really special, so yeah deeply honoured for it.​"

Samoan community leader and church minister Reverend Featunai Liuaana says praying in Pacific languages is another reason why Pasifika should make the trip to Waitangi every year.

"I think having those prayers said in different languages of the Pacific today just reinforces that link between every Pacific Islander here at Waitangi and the importance of why our Pacific people should really get behind the celebration of Waitangi."

Labour MP Dr Anae Neru Leavasa saying a Samoan prayer during the Waitangi dawn ceremony.

Although it’s not her first time at Waitangi, Kanongata’a-Suisuiki says she learns something different every time she visits the Treaty grounds.

"We are learning more and more every time we are here so today’s experience is just heartwarming just to be welcomed, to see everybody here."

Today’s celebrations featured a BBQ breakfast served up by members of parliament.

Tangi Utikere had a number of different roles while delivering his first breakfast to the public.

"I was on sauce duty, and then I upgraded to knife and fork duty and then I was put back on the burnt sausages, so I think keeping me away from the food probably was a good move, but it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to serve the community here at Waitangi.​"

Leavasa enjoyed his first BBQ breakfast at Waitangi despite some minor mishaps.

"I had a bit of charcoaling over there, burning a bit of the meat there but it was pretty cool. I’ve seen it on TV a few times so pretty special to come and do the same here."

With more than a thousand people flocking to Waitangi this year, parliamentary ministers and community leaders are encouraging more Pasifika to stand by their Maori counterparts for next year’s Waitangi Day.

Labour List MP Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki cooking during the annual Waitangi Day BBQ breakfast.