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Celebrating Matariki

20 June 2019

Mr Mike Burrell, New Zealand’s High Commissioner to South Africa celebrated Matariki among friends at his official residence.

Photo: High Commissioner Mike Burrell, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Mr N Nzuza, David Jones from the Ngāti Rānana Group, Mrs Nzuza and Te Ateraiti Waretini of the Ngāti Rānana Group.

"Aotearoa/ New Zealand is a bicultural and increasingly multi-cultural country, built upon a partnership between the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Māori, and the many different peoples who have come to New Zealand since. South Africa is also a country of many peoples – the Rainbow Nation – and so it is right that we should celebrate that shared diversity through Matariki tonight."

Remarks by High Commissioner Mike Burrell

Ti hei mauri ora!
Ko Paparoa te maunga
Ko Mawheranui te awa
Ko Ngati Pakeha te iwi
Ko Burrell te whanau
Ko Mike ahau
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

A very warm Aotearoa / NZ welcome to everyone here tonight.
I am Mike Burrell …
I would like to begin by welcoming our very special guest this evening Mr Nzuza – the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs

And a very warm kia ora to all our friends from the NZ community.

As many of you will know, the word Matariki is Māori for “little eyes” or “the eyes of God” – the stars also known as the Pleiades.

Matariki is a winter festival in New Zealand – a time to celebrate the harvest and to remember those who had passed away.

Matariki is a time for singing, dancing, feasting and storytelling.

We celebrate Matariki here in South Africa as a way of recognising our shared diversity.

Aotearoa/ New Zealand is a bicultural and increasingly multi-cultural country, built upon a partnership between the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Māori, and the many different peoples who have come to New Zealand since.  

South Africa is also a country of many peoples – the Rainbow Nation – and so it is right that we should celebrate that shared diversity through Matariki tonight.

As we mark 25 years of democracy in South Africa many of us are remembering the international solidarity shown to SA during the struggle against Apartheid.  But solidarity is a two-way street.

And tonight I would like to acknowledge the many South African activists who inspired and showed solidarity for those who struggled for justice in New Zealand / Aotearoa in the 1970s and 1980s as we went through our own social transformation.

Our transformation was inspired by the civil rights movement of the US and the struggles of indigenous peoples around the world. And it was also inspired by the anti-Apartheid movement here in South Africa.
An important step in that transformation was the 1981 Springboks rugby tour of New Zealand. “The Tour”, as it came to be known, pitted an older generation against a younger generation.

Many of us could see clearly, for perhaps the first time, the similarities between Apartheid in South Africa and our own social injustices, including the injustices against Māori in Aotearoa. It was a turning point.  

Afterwards New Zealand began to confront its colonial past and to work alongside Māori leaders to address historical injustices and to work towards being a truly bicultural society.

I believe that without the struggle here in South Africa and the inspiration that was to us in Aotearoa, that NZ would not be the tolerant and multi-cultural society we are today. And I want to thank the people of South Africa for that.
Sadly this will be my last Matariki celebration in South Africa as I will be returning with my family to New Zealand at the end of this year.

Over the past 3 years I have come to love this country and this region – its people, its many cultures and its diverse landscapes.

I have seen our relationship with South Africa and the Southern Africa region deepen and broaden over that time.

During my time here I have seen trade blossom between our countries. It continues to increase by over 10% per year.

I have seen vibrant new companies like Xero make a base here in South Africa. I have seen the dairy partnership of Clover-Fonterra flourish.
And I have seen New Zealand companies like Gallagher, Framecad, Airworks, and many others see amazing growth.

I have also seen New Zealand companies take a greater interest in opportunities in Cape Town and in other locations within South Africa and around Southern Africa.

As a result of this interest last year we hosted New Zealand’s first business delegation to South Africa in many years. I would like to thank the South African government and business community for making it the huge success it was.

It is what we hope will be the first of many such visits. And we are looking forward to hosting similar events in New Zealand.

Beyond trade we have worked to strengthen our relationships throughout the region including  

    our work with the South African science community
    our regional scholarships programme – it’s great to see so many of our alumni here tonight
    Supporting the growth of the agriculture sector in the region through our development programme  
    And through our educational links – including University of Pretoria and Sir Edmund Hilary School
    And of course I’d be remiss if I failed to mention sport … (But perhaps that wouldn’t be wise in a Rugby World Cup year).

I would like to thank my wonderful team at the NZ High Commission for bringing this event together. A special thank you to Juana, Beth, Alain and Hester for your hard work.

I would also like to acknowledge my wonderful family – my wife Glenys (the career diplomat in the family) and my children Eva and Nate. Thank you for your support and for sharing in this adventure.  

And you thank you for coming everyone. Do enjoy the storytelling, the kai and the company.

Because in the end:
He aha te mea nui o te ao
He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata

What is the most important thing in the world?
It is people, it is people, it is people. 

Each year we change things a bit for our Matariki celebration – the first year we focused on the night sky; last year we celebrated Māori performance; and this year we will focus on story-telling.
And so we are delighted to be able to welcome back to South Africa members of Ngāti Rānana to tell us some of the stories relating to Matariki.
Please put your hand together for … Ngāti Rānana!



January/February 2020










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