New Kiwis' very special ceremony

By Sandy Myhre

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Far North Mayor, John Carter, talks to the first group of New Zealand residents to receive their citizenship certificates at the Waitangi meeting house.
Far North Mayor, John Carter, talks to the first group of New Zealand residents to receive their citizenship certificates at the Waitangi meeting house.

The birthplace of the nation took on a new and significant meaning as 34 residents from 10 different countries were officially confirmed as New Zealand citizens at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the Bay of Islands.

Friday was the first time the carved meeting house (Te Whare Runanga) had been used for the official citizenship ceremony. The initiative came from Far North District Mayor, John Carter, who said the venue and grounds are a "more fitting" backdrop than the usual but more prosaic council chambers' venue and other places in the Far North are under consideration for future ceremonies.

"I can think of where Kupe arrived on the Hokianga for example," he told the gathering. "Ninety Mile Beach is significant too and it's where I get my tuatua and snapper."

The majority of those receiving their citizenship certificates came from Britain and South Africa - nine each - followed by five Fijian Indians, four French and three Dutch residents. For the two Americans being confirmed as citizens the date was especially significant.

Nancy Lees from Mangonui and William Guthrie from Taipa, were handed their New Zealand Citizenship certificates on American Independence Day.

The remaining four were from Ireland, Greece, Germany and Australia. Fisherman Alvin McCullough, now from Hokianga and formerly from County Clare in Ireland, said after nearly a decade here he was "well aware" of the significance of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

"I have to admit that when I received my official certificate I had a tear in my eye," he said.

The youngest to become citizens at the ceremony were Toby, Poppy and Oscar Kirkham formerly from Yorkshire (UK). They now live in Russell.

"Oscar was just 2-years-old when we arrived in New Zealand," said mother Clare, who also became a citizen. "They have Kiwi accents and being Kiwi kids means I don't have to buy them so many shoes."

Vandhana Prakash (formerly of Fiji now of Kawakawa) became a citizen through a bet. Her husband, Kamlesh, told her if she learned the names of the All Blacks she could earn her certificate. "Now she knows all the starting 15 and I can only name about two," he quipped. Their daughter, Alyssa also gained her citizenship.

- Northern Advocate

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