Colourful celebration of Māori and Pasifika sport and whanaungatanga

Māori and Pasifika whānau enjoyed a colourful celebration of sport and togetherness as more than 240 kids participated in a joint water polo tournament in Mount Maunganui over the weekend.

“It’s been massive, spectacular.”

“A lot of people came up to me and said we’ve been wanting to do this for years. Whānau have just really delivered,” says tournament spokesperson Wayne Rickit (Ngāti Tarāwhai, Ngā Puhi).

“Our Cook Island whānau turned up in Pasifika attire and there was a real celebration of who we are. It was really quite unique.”

Just days after Waitangi Day, there was a joyfulness about simply having fun together.

“It was a celebration for us. A feeling that the whānau needed something like a boost. It was nice just to come together and have a celebration and feel good.”

It was heartwarming to see “so many brown faces at the pool together” enjoying themselves, he says.

“Our tauiwi, as well. They were fantastic, they really got behind this event. They were really supportive and did a lot of the mahi to get this going as well.”

There was lots of fun (and games) out of the pool as well, as parents with children with both Māori and Pasifika whakapapa made their case for who they should play for.

“One of the things I was, I guess, a little naive about was how many of our players identify as Māori and Pasifika. And how many wanted to play – like mum wanted them to play for Pasifika and dad wanted them to play for their iwi.

“There was a lot of that and kids got split, sometimes kids ended up playing for mum’s team, some ended up playing for dad’s team. That’s how a lot of whānau resolved the sort of internal conflict.

“That was really funny. I’d say, ‘But your other kid is playing for Tai Tokerau Pasifika’ and they would go ‘Yeah, but nah nah that boy’s going there. This one’s playing for our Māori team’.”

There was plenty of healthy competition throughout the tournament, with the kids just happy to be doing what they love.

“Our Māori whānau, they were up for it and so were our Pasifika kids. They were healthy, they were competitive, and there was a real natural crossover as well. Some kids were genuinely happy to play in both groups as well.”

All going to plan, the tournament will be back bigger and brighter next year.

“We’re desperately keen to have it again at Bay Venues next year, as long as we get the support. And we want to have it at the same time.

“The feedback is that it’ll be bigger than this year. A lot of the kids who have played school were a bit hesitant to come along, so the clubs sort of pushed it.

“But we’re trying to get our East Coast whānau to come along and some of the clubs, like our Tai Rāwhiti and Gisborne teams, our Hawke’s Bay whānau.”