Aotearoa relations with Fiji strengthened after visit to chiefly island

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta paid her respects to the newly-installed Gone Turaga Bale na Vunivalu na Tui Kaba, Ratu Epenisa Cakoba, on the chiefly island of Bau on Friday, March 17, 2023. Picture: FIJI GOVERNMENT

The New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta paid her respects to the newly-installed Gone Turaga Bale na Vunivalu na Tui Kaba, Ratu Epenisa Cakoba, on the chiefly island of Bau yesterday (March 17, 2023).

Minister Mahuta is the first high-level official to visit the Vunivalu since his installation last week.

In receiving the delegation, Ratu Epenisa thanked the Aotearoa minister for visiting his island home during her stay in Fiji and said that Fiji’s connections with New Zealand remained deeply rooted.

It was an emotional visit for the New Zealand delegation because it also strengthened indigenous ties between the Māori and iTaukei cultures.

“I want to acknowledge the honour that was extended to the New Zealand delegation to be able to pay our respects to Ratu Epenisa, the Vunivalu na Tui Kaba who had been recently installed. It’s significant for Māori because the last time we had someone from New Zealand visit (Bau) was when the father of the current Vunivalu passed away,” Ms Mahhuta said.

“I felt a particular sense of gratitude and honour that we could come here and acknowledge the installation of the chief, and the hope and opportunity that he provides to his people.”

The island of Bau shares a deep cultural connection with the Māori people, one that dates to when Māori ancestors voyaged Hawaiki and had to find refuge on the island of Bau after their waka Tākitimu (canoe) was met with an unfortunate event.

To show their appreciation to the people of Bau, the New Zealand delegation today presented a ‘Mere pounamu’ (greenstone weapon) to Ratu Epenisa to thank his people for their hospitality to the ancestral voyagers.

Ms Mahuta and Ratu Epenisa spoke on common areas of interest – family connections, history, sports, education, the love of culture, language and traditions, and the connections between Fiji and New Zealand.

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