After rushing from a plane and sipping half a cup of water an inspirational Te Aute College student took out the 2017 Race Unity Speech Awards at the weekend.

Head boy Tauawhi Bonilla flew to Auckland to present a moving speech, which asked people around the country to stand up against racism.

"I had just come from kapa haka so as soon as I got to Auckland I had to present straight away, it was all pretty exciting and I still can't believe I won."

The competition asked more than 150 students to answer the question ''What does it mean to be a Kiwi?'' and Mr Bonilla challenged the idea successfully.

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"We are all the same, but all unique at the same time, our unity empowers us, but our diversity strengthens us."

Mr Bonilla said there were three ingredients that people needed to become a Kiwi, which included kindness, loyalty and humility.

"After that, like any good chef, we can add whatever we as individuals have, like for me personally, a cup of Māoritanga, a tablespoon of Latino, a pinch of well-crafted muscles and a dash of good looks to make my own version of the same pavlova cake."

At the centre of the teen's speech was a quote, which represented his ethnic heritage: "Tama tū tama ora, tama noho tama mate".

This translated to "the person who takes a stand makes a difference, the person who does not will not".

Standing up to racism was something Mr Bonilla was passionate about and he hoped more students would enter the competition next year and get their ideas out there.

"If I can connect with just one person in the audience then I know I have achieved something and can make a difference."

Usually Mr Bonilla brings in personal experiences but this time he said he wanted to keep his speech universal so it could relate to many walks of life.

"It is about everyone not just me and I hope it encourages more people to stand up to the racism that surrounds us."

New Zealand Police sponsored the event and assistant commissioner Wally Haumaha was chief judge for the competition.

Mr Haumaha congratulated Mr Bonilla and the other competitors.

"Their conversations are important in strengthening unity and overcoming discrimination of all forms," he said.

The Race Unity Speech Awards were initiated by the Baha'i Community in 2001, following the death of race relations activist Hedi Moani.

The conference, which was held for the semi finalists and finalists before the national finals, was opened by New Plymouth Mayor and race relations advocate Andrew Judd who spoke about his own efforts as a "recovering racist".

Other sponsors of the event were the Human Rights Commission, the Office of Ethnic Communities, and the Hedi Moani Charitable Trust.