Garin College has welcomed its students back to school through a well-attended powhiri.
Head of languages faculty Simon Pimm said more than 750 people attended the powhiri yesterday morning, the biggest the school had seen to date.
Many parents were there as well as the students, both new and returning.
Mr Pimm said the powhiri was important to the school because it reinforced the importance of Maori culture.
"It's our culture, we are the only school in the top of the south where it is compulsory for year nine to study te reo Maori.
"The culture is really valued."
Maori head girl Sheree Houra called the visitors into the school as the kaikaranga.
"I was nervous to start but it was pretty cool to do it, my friends were all really supportive and complimented me."
Due to the uncertainty of Maori male speakers to represent the manuhiri (visitors) Maori head boy, Francis Hailes-Paku was the first to speak on their behalf.
He said it was a simple whaikorero (speech) where he acknowledged everyone who was in attendance as well as ancestors.
"It was my first time speaking te reo Maori to a lot of people.
"I'm not the biggest fan of public speaking," Francis said.
Francis had learnt te reo Maori through his father who was unable to make it to the powhiri.
"It's an important part of me, Dad would have been proud."
Mr Pimm said Francis had earned much respect from his teachers and peers for overcoming his fears of public speaking.
There were two other males who also spoke on behalf of the visitors, Tom Speers, a new teacher, and Moeke Parker, a student's grandfather.
Both Francis and Sheree were excited about starting year 13.
Francis planned to "focus hard and work hard" and was most looking forward to studying music.
Sheree was looking forward to doing some work experience.
As Maori head boy and girl, they had plans to increase cultural participation through the year.
"We want to get more Maori involved.
"Even little things and ideas like Maori Language Week we don't acknowledge it enough, so this year it's going to be big and awesome," said Sheree.
College students start term one this week while primary school pupils will begin next week.
- The Nelson Mail
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