Connected by heritage

‘You are not so different from us’

‘You are not so different from us’

WARM ILMINSTER WELCOME: Several members of the French Polynesian delegation join Ilminster students at an assembly in the school gymnasium yesterday. Among the sea of cerise-shirted students are (from left) Tepuaraurii Teritahi, Jeanne Santini, Bruce Shepherd, Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon, French Polynesia National Assembly President Gaston Tong Sang, wife Romina Pinson, Romilda Tahiata and Manuel Terai.
Standing outside the entrance to the gym are (from left) Ilminster principal Peter Ferris, Dr Elizabeth Kerekere, Manuel Terai (delegate for European and Pacific International Affairs of the Presidency of French Polynesia), Philip Schyle (Mayor of Arue), Winton Holmes (NZ Parliamentary Services), Teura Iriti (Tahoera’a huiraatira group leader in the Assembly), Meng Foon, Gaston Tong Sang, Bruce Shepherd (slightly obscured, Consul-General to the French Pacific), Romina Pinson, Tepuaraurii Teritahi (Tapura huiraatira group leader in the Assembly), Romilda Tahiata and Jeanne Santini (Secretary General of the Assembly). Huiraatira translates to (political) party. Pictures by Paul Rickard

Ilminster Intermediate welcomed a delegation from French Polynesia to a special assembly yesterday as part of a New Zealand parliamentary exchange.

French Polynesia National Assembly President Gaston Tong Sang told the gathering he hoped this would be the beginning of an ongoing cultural exchange between schools in both countries.

Mayor Meng Foon hosted the group.

He accompanied them to Uawa/Tolaga Bay on Monday, where connections with French Polynesia started in 1769.

There they received a warm welcome at Hauiti Marae and later visited Tolaga Bay Area School.

Some of the group then went by boat to Cook’s Cove.

Speaking at the Ilminster assembly through a translator Mr Tong Sang said: “You are not so different from us.

“We want to thank our ancestors who carried our heritage to Hawaii and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and all the way south to Aotearoa.

“We are very impressed with this wonderful country of yours.

“We offer greetings and friendship of all those we have left behind in Tahiti.

“In spite of the distance, we only have one tipuna — ancestor.

“We do feel at home here. You are also part of the family in Tahiti.”

The delegation’s Gisborne visit was part of a week-long stay in New Zealand, which will finish with a parliamentary programme in Wellington.

Trevor Mallard, speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives, welcomed the delegation.

“New Zealand and French Polynesia continue to enjoy shared, mutual goals in the Pacific region, with a joint cooperation plan to strengthen bilateral ties,” he said.

“This visit will assist by providing opportunities for parliamentarians from both countries to share information and knowledge.”

Gaston Tong Sang is a former President of French Polynesia and Mayor of Bora Bora.

His delegation to New Zealand includes other representatives from the National Assembly.

At the school assembly, Mr Foon encouraged students to learn another language as it “would open doors” for them as it had for him as a speaker of three languages — Maori, English and Mandarin.

Ilminster Intermediate welcomed a delegation from French Polynesia to a special assembly yesterday as part of a New Zealand parliamentary exchange.

French Polynesia National Assembly President Gaston Tong Sang told the gathering he hoped this would be the beginning of an ongoing cultural exchange between schools in both countries.

Mayor Meng Foon hosted the group.

He accompanied them to Uawa/Tolaga Bay on Monday, where connections with French Polynesia started in 1769.

There they received a warm welcome at Hauiti Marae and later visited Tolaga Bay Area School.

Some of the group then went by boat to Cook’s Cove.

Speaking at the Ilminster assembly through a translator Mr Tong Sang said: “You are not so different from us.

“We want to thank our ancestors who carried our heritage to Hawaii and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and all the way south to Aotearoa.

“We are very impressed with this wonderful country of yours.

“We offer greetings and friendship of all those we have left behind in Tahiti.

“In spite of the distance, we only have one tipuna — ancestor.

“We do feel at home here. You are also part of the family in Tahiti.”

The delegation’s Gisborne visit was part of a week-long stay in New Zealand, which will finish with a parliamentary programme in Wellington.

Trevor Mallard, speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives, welcomed the delegation.

“New Zealand and French Polynesia continue to enjoy shared, mutual goals in the Pacific region, with a joint cooperation plan to strengthen bilateral ties,” he said.

“This visit will assist by providing opportunities for parliamentarians from both countries to share information and knowledge.”

Gaston Tong Sang is a former President of French Polynesia and Mayor of Bora Bora.

His delegation to New Zealand includes other representatives from the National Assembly.

At the school assembly, Mr Foon encouraged students to learn another language as it “would open doors” for them as it had for him as a speaker of three languages — Maori, English and Mandarin.

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