by PATRICIA BROOKS

The Tauranga Moana Maori community, led by kaumatua Kihi Ngatai,  gathered with Aquinas College, students, staff and friends on the first full school day of 2018 for a powhiri to welcome Matthew Dalton, the new principal of the school.

To accommodate the large numbers (and because of inclement weather) Mr Dalton, his family, and supporters from his former school were called onto a temporary marae, the college gymnasium.

The powhiri ceremony was the “gifting” of Mr Dalton by his former school Rotorua Boys’ High School, to his new community. Among the guests were board of trustees members, parents and parishioners, and representatives of the Catholic Schools’ Office at the Chanel Centre.

Bishop Stephen Lowe began the formalities with prayers before Mr Ngatai, the first speaker on the paepae (orators’ front row seats), spoke on behalf of tangata whenua (hosts). Replies came from the Rotorua Boys’ kaumatua Wairangi Jones and from Fr Mark Field, who spoke on behalf of the students new to Aquinas College, most of whom come from St Thomas More School in Mt Maunganui and St Mary’s School in Tauranga.

Perhaps the most moving part of the ceremony was when Mr Dalton, his wife Kelly, and their children were led to the welcoming side and handed over to the college — a very simple but beautiful gesture — during which the students from Rotorua Boys’ performed a stirring haka. It was evident how much respect they had for Mr Dalton as they performed the haka with passion and pride.

Four senior Maori girls from Aquinas then walked across as the karanga was being issued to accompany Mr Dalton and his family “ki raro I te whakaruruhau o te korowai arohao tewhanau whanui o Hato Tamati Akuina” (beneath the mantle of the cloak of love of the wider community of St Thomas Aquinas).

Mr Dalton was given the opportunity to speak before the conclusion of the powhiri, which ended with a hongi and hariru.

This is the time when the manuhiri (visitors) come across and meet the tangata whenua  and become one with the people.

Following this, the visitors where taken for a meal, which is the last part of the powhiri, where the hosts demonstrate the custom of manaakitanga (hospitality).

Mr Dalton is a former student and head boy of John Paul College in Rotorua, and is a deeply-committed Catholic.

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