FROM THE MAYOR'S DESK

Ancestry tests have been in the spotlight on social media lately, with claims of deceit – or at the very least, questionable clarity.

When a pair of identical twins sent DNA samples to five of the top ancestry testing companies, they discovered a much bigger variation in their results than they expected, which gave rise to a social media outcry.

How can that be possible? The reality is that pinpointing our ancestors to a specific location is much harder than taking a simple DNA test.

Recently in Auckland there was a furore over a cafe docket faux pas. A staff member described a table of customers as "Asians" for ease of ordering, writing the label on their receipt for all to see.

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The Cook Islands group on stage at a previous Pasifika Fusion Festival at Hihiaua Peninsula. Photo/File
The Cook Islands group on stage at a previous Pasifika Fusion Festival at Hihiaua Peninsula. Photo/File

I can easily understand why this is offensive. The point isn't that they looked Asian, or that they identify with the Asian culture. The point is that this group of people are proud Kiwis – their ancestry, culture, heritage and race shouldn't become a label.

While we are all proud of our own heritage, we are also proud to be New Zealanders; this is what makes our country so unique.

Let's tighten the focus. In Whangārei, we have a thriving multicultural community, with many exciting events held throughout the year celebrating holy festivals, seasonal festivals, historical figures and significant events.

In February alone we have the 2019 Northland Pasifika Fusion Festival on February 23, followed the next day by the 2019 Northland Chinese Spring Festival.

Chinese students from Whangārei perform at the 2017 Chinese Spring Festival celebration at Forum North. Photo/File
Chinese students from Whangārei perform at the 2017 Chinese Spring Festival celebration at Forum North. Photo/File

What do these events have in common? "Northland" is featured proudly in both their titles.

We are welcoming two lots of international students from around the world into our community this year, we're forging strong friendships with visiting overseas educators, and every two months we experience joy as we witness the citizenship ceremonies of brand new, excited New Zealanders.

Our district continues to grow in diversity as we welcome the world into our special piece of NZ.

Far from detracting from our sense of place, these cultures add a depth of flavour, vibrancy and life that I for one highly value.

In the wake of Waitangi Day, I think it's especially important to emphasise that being a Kiwi isn't a matter of heritage or race; it's a common spirit and love for this country that makes us true citizens of New Zealand.

And yes, I've taken a DNA test myself. Apparently, I'm 20 per cent Scandinavian, and 80 per cent English. Does this describe who I am? I think not.

I'm proudly 100 per cent New Zealand, and so is every single citizen of our beautiful country.

* Sheryl Mai is mayor of Whangārei District.