Interest in the Unity celebrations held in Napier each year for almost three decades has increased rapidly following the Christchurch mosque killings.

It brings hope for the longtime dream of now 92-year-old social justice campaigner Pat Magill.

Marches and vigils are being staged around the community and around the country imploring greater racial and ethnic understanding in the hope of preventing a repeat of the shootings.

A Unity walker since 1990, Pat Magill wonders
A Unity walker since 1990, Pat Magill wonders "if people heard a word" of his message. Photo / File

Magill has been promoting such messages for years, often wondering "if the people who should be listening are hearing a single word".


The interest in Unity Day 2019 on April 24, and a 25km Unity Walk between Tangoio Marae and Pukemokimoki Marae four days later, doesn't surprise Hawke's Bay local government elder statesman Alan Dick.

Dick was mayor of Napier when the first Walk for Unity from Taupo to Napier was led by Magill in 1990, as part of celebrations marking 150 years since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

It is run under the banner of the Napier Pilot City Trust, which Magill helped establish in the 1980s, challenging the city to look at itself and respond with social change to make the city a trailblazer in creating a fairer and safer environment for its people.

Unity celebrations over the years have attracted dozens of nationalities, from Governors-General, politicians and embassy staff to visitors from overseas, including backpacking seasonal workers.

Magill was last week spraying blackberry at Puketitiri, preferring to "take a back seat", but Dick said: "Pat is a pioneer and an evangelist, and our society would be lacking greatly without him.

"He pushes the envelope, and his legacy will be that he has been proven to be right," Dick said.

"This single event (in Christchurch) is, unfortunately an example of that.

"We have got to work a hell of a lot harder at understanding everyone and accepting the differences. Pat is the exemplar of that philosophy.


"The Pilot City concept is more valid now than it has ever been," he said. "And yes, Pat Magill is and always has been ahead of his time."

The trust had noticed increased interest in Unity Day before the March 15 horrors, with spokesman and former high school principal Mark Cleary writing five days earlier: "We expect this to be a very popular event, so be sure to book yourself in and then share with as many as you can."

Unity Day will comprise a full-day, free-attendance open forum at the Napier Conference Centre and War Memorial, including the delivery of the Robson Lecture by justice campaigner, former policeman and Prison Service boss Sir Kim Workman.

The lecture, and the Robson Collection at the Napier library comprising more than 1000 books and texts on social justice issues, are in memory of late Secretary of Justice John Robson, who in 1977 made the observation that "Napier offers hope" while speaking in the city.

Magill is unrelenting in his push for social issues to be resolved at community level, with Government help.

Despite the passing of 30 years, and now adding to his goals making Napier a Child Friendly City in line with international objectives of UNICEF, Magill says Napier has still not received the support it needs to meet his goals.


The Unity Day will also include the annual Pilot City Awards, recognising the work of volunteers in community work striving for social change, and the Unity Dinner, which will be held at the Napier RSA.

Trust spokesman Cleary says the "Building a Kinder and Fairer Napier" Unity Day event would run in four sessions.

Minister of Police and Napier MP Stuart Nash would be on the programme, along with Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri.

They will explore how the people, the council and the Government can work to create a "kinder and fairer" Napier.