'Time to do something about our political participation'

7:08 am on 22 September 2017

Rangatahi taking part in Ngā Manu Kōrero in New Plymouth have tomorrow's general election on their minds.

Hamiora Renata, 16, used his speech to encourage people to vote in the general election.

Hamiora Renata, 16, used his speech to encourage people to vote in the general election. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

More than 52 schools around Aotearoa are competing in the national secondary school speech competition, at the TSB Stadium in New Plymouth, in front of a panel of judges and hundreds of classmates, whānau and supporters.

The contest, which began 52 years ago, encourages Māori high school students in the eloquent use of te reo Māori and English.

Students compete in a variety of categories including impromptu and prepared speeches in both languages.

The Aotea iwi of Taranaki and Whanganui are hosting this year's finals.

Iwi representative Wharehoka Wano said the competition was important beyond the language skills on display.

"It's actually also about identifying some of our future leadership really tribally across the motu. I think of Aroaro Tamati. She won Korimako Senior English in her time so that's what it does, it identifies some of our future leadership."

Mr Wano said a common theme had emerged this year.

"Obviously with the elections coming up, there's a big play on what's happening in the elections, in terms of Māori politically ... It's really good to hear the young people voicing our need to go to the polls, because we've got a really young demographic that don't vote."

Hamiora Renata, 16, of Nga Taiatea Wharekura in Hastings, gave his speech in Te Reo and said he had polling day on his mind.

"So it was just to encourage our young people to have their say in what they want for our future. I think it's a good thing that rangatahi get involved with our politics because at the end of the day it is going to affect you. It's going to affect all of us."

Tawa College student Te Maia McKenzie, 16, said listening to the ideas expressed by other competitors is one of he thrills of Ngā Manu Kōrero.

Te Maia McKenzie Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Tawa College student Te Maia McKenzie's impromptu speech in English, which played on the word 'sorry', also turned to the looming election.

"I'm sorry that some kids have parents that abuse drugs and have parties all night so they can't focus on their schoolwork. I'm sorry ... it's time to do something about our political participation. Vote for a world where I don't ever have to say sorry again."

The 16-year-old said Ngā Manu Kōrero was not so much about winning or losing.

"This competition - it's not that important, winning it. It's not that important, but expressing my ideas and listening to other people's ideas - that's really important."

The secretary of the Taranaki Kaiako Māori cluster, Debra O'Connor, said the speech competition was very important to students.

"It provides a really much needed and rare opportunity for students to aspire to this level of kōrero and being able to be immersed in this kaupapa for a couple of days is again a rare opportunity for them."

Ms O'Connor said the feedback from students exposed to Ngā Manu Kōrero was universally positive.

"They're always inspired, always inspired to uplift the mana of te reo Māori and to lift their own mana and be involved in kaupapa Māori."

The competition continues today, with the junior cohort taking to the stage before the winners for both seniors and juniors are announced.

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