Face to face human contact is important and must not be neglected during the coronavirus pandemic, Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon says.
He spoke at Pākaitore/Moutoa Gardens as part of Multicultural Council of Rangitīkei/Whanganui's Race Unity Day on Saturday.
Foon mentioned many people who connect Whanganui and his Te Tai Rāwhiti (Gisborne) home - including Norman Whanarere, Lorna Metekingi, Rangi Wills and Rana Waitai.
Electronic communication was fantastic for banking, ordering taxis and contact with distant people, but face to face contact was still vitally important, Foon said.
"You make the effort to turn up. My success as a mayor and business person has been that face to face."
"There's no price that you can put on that giving. Don't expect anything. We are all human beings and we should be kind to each other."
New Zealand has a rich history, and Foon was glad the Prime Minister wants it taught in schools.
"The more knowledge we have, the better our unity and understanding."
The occupation of Pākaitore/Moutoa Gardens was about the human right to own land, he said, without having it taken away.
• Call to support Whanganui race unity gathering following mass shootings in Christchurch
• Celebration of cultures during Whanganui's Race Unity Week
• Best of 2019: Whanganui unites in grief over Christchurch mosque shooting
• What's on in Whanganui this week?
Race Relations Commissioner understands refugee concerns
Multicultural president wangles visit from commissioner
Kindness of locals after attacks remembered
In his speech Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall said Foon embodied the face of race relations in New Zealand.
"We welcomed 35 new students, some from New Delhi, to Whanganui. They were handsome, ambitious, polite, dignified individuals. They add to our community."
Speaking on behalf of Iwi, Joseph Barber said Whanganui had "beautiful people" but he had also seen "some of the most racist things" of his life here.
Lupton For, who is Asian and grew up in Whanganui, said he didn't experience racism.
"It was all about just working hard and everyone around us was doing the same."
For helps organise the Whanganui Festival of Cultures, and said people need to connect and find similarities, rather than look for differences.
"If we can all remember to try to do that then hopefully there will be less angst and aggravation."
Islamic Association of Whanganui president Dr Mukarram Mairaj said he has not felt discrimination here. A surgeon at Whanganui Hospital, he said people are all the same under their skins and it is wrong to feel superior and to discriminate.