A Rotorua student's passion for his culture and te reo Māori has earned him a prestigious award at the 2019 Ngā Manu Kōrero national secondary school speech competition.
Fourteen-year-old Paretoroa Webster-Tarei told crowds: "My culture is more than just a performance", while on the stage at the competition in Palmerston North this week.
The Year 10 Rotorua Boys' High School student, who represented Te Arawa, won.
A post on the school's Facebook page stated it was the first time the school welcomed back a Manu Kōrero champion in 12 years.
The annual competition fell within Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, which this year had the theme of Kia Kaha te Reo Māori - Let's make the Māori language strong.
Te Wiki o te Reo Māori - or Māori Language Week - encourages people to improve their te reo Māori skills and use the language in their everyday lives.
We are all hugely proud of him, and there are not enough words to describe how happy and emotional his whanau and our school community feels about his success.
This was Paretoroa's second time competing in Ngā Manu Kōrero, having walked away with second place at last year's nationals.
The competition was broken into four categories; Pei Te Hurinui Jones, Korimako, Te Rāwhiti Ihaka and Sir Turi Carroll. Paretoroa won the Te Rāwhiti Ihaka, junior English, section.
Rotorua Boys' High School head of faculty Māori Rie Morris said she and the wider school, and Paretoroa's whanau, could not be prouder of his success.
"We had total faith and belief in Paretoroa that he could come out on top, and his speech was convincing, enthusiastic, moving and he made us all proud to be Māori and proud to be in his presence," Morris said.
Tears of joy have flowed among his whanau and his supporters. Everyone was overjoyed to help celebrate this milestone with him, she said.
"We are all hugely proud of him, and there are not enough words to describe how happy and emotional his whanau and our school community feels about his success."
Morris said the timing of Paretoroa's win could not be more appropriate given Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's recent comments about the value of te reo Māori and her announcement that New Zealand history will be taught in all schools and kura by 2022.
This included a special prominence to the New Zealand Wars.
Paretoroa and his family were not available for comment but earlier told the Rotorua Daily Post he was proud to speak about his culture and often felt emotional when reading about and discussing issues like the Ihumātao protest.
"I chose to speak on the topic 'my culture is more than just a performance' because it stood out to me the most. People come here to see us perform but nobody really knows our history and the in-depth information about our culture.
"I am proud to be able to speak about my own culture and the struggles Māori have to go through, knowing some people do think our culture is just a performance."
Goals of Māori Language Week:
• Create a positive environment for the use of Māori language.
• Promote Māori language initiatives and events.
• Encourage non-Māori speaking New Zealanders to use te Reo Māori.
• Encourage speakers of Māori to support others who are just starting out.
• Encourage community, business, government and media organisations to participate.
• Promote resources to make the Māori language more accessible.
• Contribute to awareness of the Crown Māori Language Strategy and the Māori and iwi strategy that work together for revitalisation.
Source: Te Wiki o te Reo Māori