Opening of the Ki-o-Rahi Akotanga Iho Field, Waitangi – Tariana Turia

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I want to particularly acknowledge the Chief Executive of the Waitangi National Trust, Greg McManus, Hon John Carter, Mayor of the Far North District Council, the irrepressible Harko Brown and the ever inspiring Verbina Kopa and Rana Paraha.

Today on this very special Waitangi site, is a wonderful opportunity to hold the conversation about how we connect together, tangata whenua and tangata tiriti, literally those who whakapapa to the land as the indigenous peoples – and those who arrived here by virtue of their relationship through the promise of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

I am so thrilled to be part of this celebration ofTe Ata-rau-a-rangi-hae-ata, literally the shadows of the first light.

To our knowledge, this is the very first public built ki-o-rahi field in the land a fitting tribute indeed for the birthplace of the nation.

This is a particularly important place from which to advance the initiative of Ki-o-rahi Akotanga Iho.

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It was from here that the 28thMaori Battalion had their send off during World War Two.

The origins of Ki-o-Rahi date back to that time, when our soldiers, serving our country during the war in Europe, played a fast paced ball game based on a circular field. In the centre of hat field is a rock, positioned as a target to be hit by the Ki, a flax ball.

Seven pou-matai-whetu – positioned 20 metres out from the centre in a circle, are used to score points on.

The other special feature of this place is that it is here that former Governor-General Lord Bledisloe, bequeathed this land to the Waitangi National Trust with a specific message that the grounds be utilised for local communities and sports codes.

Some might ask, why would a ball game from seventy years ago, be relevant today?

I believe there are three good reasons why this traditional Maori game has hit the spot.

The first is its unique character and history that connects us here in Waitangi Estate with people from right across the globe.

Three years ago, a French organisation, the Ki-o-Rahi Dieppe Organisation, hosted New Zealand test teams and took them to pay their respects at the gravesites of French soldiers who had brought the game with them back from Italy.

1383220_438059356298835_134312250_nThat historic connection between Maori, French and Italian whanau, was obviously deeply felt. To this day, communities in Italy and France still play the game, and when school teams from La Providence travelled here in October last year, they visited this site and reconnected in spirit to their ancestors who laid their lives down in hope for a better future for the generations to come.

Over and above these unique beginnings, other nations have also embraced the potential of Ki-o-rahi including our whanaunga from Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, Germany, Rhodesia, South Africa, Japan and Brazil.

The second reason Ki-o-Rahi is so exciting is that it represents an incredible collaboration and spirit of generosity right across your community.

Kaumatua and kuia from Kaiamai, Muriwhenua, Ngapuhi, Ngati Hine, Ngati Kawa, Raukawa and Te Aupouri have been involved in the shape and design of this Field of Dreams.

And I want to particularly acknowledge the leadership and tautoko of the following who have been passionately involved in presiding over hui, and the construction and installation protocols. Yves Brown, Verbina Kopa, Rana Paraha, Leah Te Iringa, Harko Brown, Sid Kingi, Renata Tane and Wiremu Wiremu.

Of course each of these leaders has been supported by amazing whanau and roopu who have volunteered themselves to invest in this project. The Ki-o-rahi Akotanga Iho club and the Auckland Samoan community have played a pivotal role in getting the project moving, the Moerewa Carving School has dedicated themselves to constructing appropriate carvings for the site and we can all appreciate their artistry and talents today.

But what is wonderful to see is also the substantial contribution of local schools and I want to mihi to all those teachers, principals, Board of Trustee members and tamariki/mokopuna from Kawakawa Primary, Northland College, Opua School, Paihia Primary, Raumanga Kohanga Reo, Taipa Area School and Tikipunga High School.

At a local level we have also seen significant investment in the dream from the Far North District Council, the Waitangi National Trust Board, the Historic Places Trust, Ngapuhi Nui Tonu, the Bay of Islands Whangaroa Community Board and a host of individuals and whanau who wanted this project to come to fruition.

To me it is a stunning reflection of community development in action.

The third reason of significance, is the potential that ki-o-rahi offers as a sign of things to come.

Ki-o-rahi offers incredible promise as a symbol of cultural tourism. It stands to revitalise our ancient traditions, it represents community engagement at its best. It is an investment in the heart of the community, derived from masses of goodwill, of voluntary support and mutual commitment to one another.

What I love about ki-o-rahi is that it can advance whanau wellbeing through the possibilities around health, education, sports and recreation.

It directly connects todays generation to the history and the honour of the 28thM?ori Battalion and their sacrifice in our name. There is so much rich material for wananga, for workshops, for education and reflection.

Finally, I return to the concept of the Treaty conversation.

Today that relationship takes on a wonderful new dimension.

Who knows. Ki-o-rahi could become a new tourism phenomenon, the foundation for rich cultural connections between peoples of all ethnicity, ages and background, the opportunity for a strong and positive basis as a community.

For years to come, people will come here to picnic, to reflect, to share, to place, to unite.

This field is indeed, a gift to the nation and a legacy for future generations.

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