New Zealand's race relations commissioner Meng Foon will visit Whanganui as part of Race Unity Week.

The week began on Monday and ends with Foon's visit on Saturday morning. The former Gisborne mayor of 14 years, who speaks English, Cantonese and te reo Māori, was appointed race relations commissioner in August last year.

Foon arrives in Whanganui for a brief pōwhiri on the riverbank near the Waimarie Wharf on Saturday. After that, he has time to tour the market before moving to the UCOL Whanganui atrium for food and a performance.

He leaves just after noon. He is expected in Christchurch on Sunday, the first anniversary of the 2019 mosque shootings.


Leading up to his Whanganui visit, the UCOL atrium will be enlivened by cultural displays, with activities between 11am and 2pm.

On Monday the focus was Indian culture with students learning how to drape a sari and tie a turban.

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Te Ao Māori featured on Tuesday, with Mere Keating weaving a basket from fresh harakeke (New Zealand flax).

She sold her weaving at the Whanganui River Markets for 12 years and now works full-time on commissions. She has planted her own pā harakeke at Mangamahu, with about 40 different varieties of flax.

The UCOL arts students were interested in the artistic side of her work, while hairdressing students wanted to know her plaiting technique.

Today Born and Raised Pasifika will man a display, and a demonstration of Tai Chi is planned for Thursday.

Race Unity Week is organised by Multicultural Council of Rangitīkei/Whanganui president Pushpa Prasad and secretary Teena Lawrence to show off the vibrancy of Whanganui's cultures.


It's great for the multicultural UCOL students to engage with the cultures during their lunchtimes, student life co-ordinator Elise Goodge said.

March is Race Relations Month, with activities in New Zealand centres on March 6-25. March 21 is Race Relations Day worldwide. It remembers the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, when 69 died in a South African protest against apartheid.