Tauranga Rotary recently had a speaker from Tauranga Girls’ College. 
 
Ngariki Taimanu, a Year 13 student, was a finalist in the Race Unity Speech Awards.
 
Her powerful speech took us back to ‘the roots of Aotearoa’s past’, describing the diabolical taniwha ‘whose devious figure lurks upon the surface, hugging the folded pages of Aotearoa's history’ – the Taniwha of racism -  ‘who chews on and devours the diversity, values and beliefs that contribute to the unity of our nation’. 
Ngariki delivered her speech with great dignity and eloquence in spite of the fact that it was her first speech in front of a live audience, all previous occasions being held on Zoom due to Covid 19 restrictions.  (Her speech follows – of can be found in its entirety on Utube under Race Unity Speech Awards 2020.) Ngarimu will attend University next year to work towards her dream of being a writer – she has a bight future ahead of her.
 
 
Homai nga tohu tika, i runga te aroha        
Give to us your greatest gift, aroha, love, its many connotations.
 
Tohutohaina tenei kupu ki te ao katoa            
It will bring peace, goodwill, friendship among people
 
Puta aki i te po, ka ao, ka ao, ka marama               
And will take us from the world of darkness and ignorance into the light of knowledge and understanding.
 
Just like Maui slowed down the sun, I am going to slow down time and take you back to the roots of Aotearoa's past.
 
Since the creation of mankind, a diabolical Taniwha has consumed our race. The human race! His devious figure lurks upon the surface, hugging the folded pages of Aotearoa's history. Just like a silhouette, his identity remains an unknown shadow. But the whispers of many tongues chant Au Kati Iwi, the Taniwha of racism. He chews on and devours  the diversity, values and beliefs that contribute to the unity of our nation.
 
With the mana (knowledge) of our ancestors through generations we must challenge this taniwha. Kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face). Our elders have left the influential leaders of today the blueprint, to support and nurture the uprising youth.  The sun is slowly rising, symbolising a new day, a new beginning, a new way of life. Only united as one, can we strive for the better future of our country.
 
Before Maui tames Tamanuitera, the sun, he says to his brothers, “Why should we be slaves to him? I will catch the sun before it rises and teach it to travel slowly across the sky”. By questioning the power of this spiritual being, even though it was conceived as impossible, a foe that was portrayed as a fearsome stature, he was determined to challenge it.  Thus sparks the fire of courage, inherited within all New Zealanders. With the courage of Maui, we can slay this taniwha.
 
Witnessed across generations of our country's history, Mt Taranaki has watched the growth of leaders emerge beneath his eyes, and blossom in wonderful ways. In 1860 tangata whenua challenged sovereignty! In 1883 tangata whenua challenged cultural genocide! In 1881 tangata whenua encouraged passive resistance against the taniwha on the grounds of Parihaka!
 
Ngariki Puhi Waeroa Tamainu. Within each syllable of my name, travels the stories and journeys of my namesakes. I was gifted their legacy to uphold their aspirations, traditions and dreams. Although I once felt it was an immense burden, I now only feel pride, to carry and continue to embrace them within every aspect of life. As a child I was made to feel uncomfortable, for the lack of effort many displayed in simply asking how to pronounce my name. However at 17 years of age, I now know that overlooking the pronunciation of a cultural place, name or word exemplifies your contribution to feeding the taniwha. And I refuse to fall victim to the mere descending voice of racism. Instead, I stand. Will you feed the taniwha or, like Maui, use your courage to challenge him?
 
On the land of the long white cloud, beats the hearts of more than 200 cultures. I have discovered that indeed our leaders have grasped the ideologies of the past. They have provided countless opportunities to support the youth of today.
 
It was a few years ago that I was given the opportunity to learn the cultural significance of Pacifica beauty, through dance. Being unfamiliar with this culture was daunting. Fear overwhelmed my thoughts with the assumption that I wouldn't be accepted, and that I would face the taniwha.  Nevertheless the people I am proud to call my friends, opened their arms and culture with a warm embrace. They are the representation and living forms of the values of Aoteatroa’s unity. Performing side by side, in harmony, our bodies flowed, showcasing triumph: the triumph of battles against the taniwha,  which our leaders of today continue to fight.
 
 Aupito William Sio, MP of Labour and Minister for Pacific peoples who are sponsors of the ASB Polyfest said in his maiden speech, “Principled leadership is what these future leaders expect from us and from this house (meaning the Government’s house) and we must rise to that challenge for the sake of future generations of our nation”.
 
Amongst our own parliamentarians we have MP leaders Aupito William Sio, Melissa Lee, Gloriz Gharaman and so many more, representing different cultures, childhoods and political groups but  fighting the same battles for the outcome of the same purpose. So, just as Maui tamed the sun and tangata whenua of Taranaki showed passive resistance on the grounds of Parihaka, our leaders have learnt that to work towards slaying the taniwha of racism, we must have strong leaders of all cultures within parliament; making decisions, with the determination to advocate and ensure that multicultural pathways are sustainable for our people.
 
Walking through the carved wooden frames, entering the four walls that contain the greatest heights of Maoridom, I am now transported back, through thousands of years. I gaze in awe, upon the millions of miles my elders are to embark on, inhaling the cold bitter wind, that stretches vast along Te Moana a Kiwa (Pacific Ocean). The night sky illuminates, while the stars dance in harmony, guiding my ancestors to the land of Aotearoa. The moon pulls their waka, into the shores of a new way of life. Their purpose: to discover a future where their people could flourish and prosper on new soil. This was the journey of my ancestors, and I believe is our prophecy.
 
I am now awakened that our purpose now and for the future, is to create a new life, one with freedom from the taniwha: where we no longer hear his voice nor fear him, setting forward our waka united as one, into the ocean of new beginnings. An ocean where we travel connected by hearts, all races and international countries to overcome the virus of Covid 19. It affects us all and we know that the cure does not involve or have a place for the taniwha. Navigating through our ancestors, to guide us to a future of cohesive and inclusive unity for our nation, Aotearoa. Can you hear that? That is the sound of our future awaiting us.
 
In the bonds of love we meet, my brothers and sisters of every creed and race, for the primary purpose of unity, for our nation. In the past we embraced the fire burning deep within us. We used the weapon of courage to burn a taniwha so big that he shrunk. Today our leaders use a taiaha, engraved with the koru of opportunities to amplify the force of a strike.
 
For future generations their greatest weapon will be oneness. E tu koutou, together in unity we will destroy the taniwha and fulfil the prophecy of Aotearoa.
 
Ngariki Taimanu