New citizens on Waitangi Day
Beyond the gates to Rapaki Marae, 16-month-old Osas Ogbah waited for his uncle to become a citizen.
The crowd had filtered in and taken their seats outside the marae’s whare on Banks Peninsula. It was where 25 men, women and children from 11 different countries would each swear an allegiance to their new home on Waitangi Day.
It was the first time the marae had hosted a citizenship ceremony.
‘‘Every one of you has your own story to what brought you on this journey here,’’ Mayor Lianne Dalziel told the prospective citizens. ‘‘It is that journey that we all have in common.’’
Osas’ journey had taken him from Lagos, Nigeria to the side of two-year-old Te Amo Rangi. Dalziel said the Treaty of Waitangi helped forge the country’s biculturalism that had given way to its multiculturalism.
Te Amo edged closer to Osas. Then he gave him a kiss.
Ngai Tahu representative Nuk Korako said he hoped it would be a day that the new citizens would remember for the rest of their lives.
It was a day about partnership, old and new, he said – and the timing, the location and the day were all significant.
For Reham Bani Baker and her daughter Lureen it was significant as the end of a journey that started six years ago, when they came to New Zealand from northern Jordan.
Bani Baker had followed her husband Mohammad Daradkeh. Their former home was one of the main entry points for refugees fleeing conflict in Syria. the Syrian civil war brought more challenges to a town which was already struggling with the resources to caterfor its citizens the Syrian civil war brought more challenges.
Daradkeh first came out to study computer science at Lincoln University. Then he got a job teaching there.
‘‘With any conflict it is always the normal people like us that become the victims and it is people like us who can’t do anything about it,’’ said Daradkeh. ‘‘So it is better to try and stay away. So we are here.’’
It was significant for Menuka De Alwis and wife Jayathri Pathirana because when they first came to New Zealand there was a civil war erupting in their home country of Sri Lanka.
‘‘It is very peaceful here. It is a dream country and now we have our wish.’’
It was significant for Raazesh Sainudiin because he had lived in the United States and in the United Kingdom, but it was New Zealand where he wanted his children to grow up. He and his wife had met while he was studying mathematics at Cornell University in New York state. As soon as his children arrived they started singing the national anthem in the shower. That was six years ago. Now he is teaching at the University of Canterbury.
‘‘It was optimal to raise them here,’’ Sainudiin said.
Dalziel handed each of them a certificate and a native tree as a symbol of their new country.
‘‘You bring your land with you,’’ she said. ‘‘And now you have another home.’’
They would leave Rapaki as New Zealand citizens, she said.
For Osas’ uncle, Christian Ogbah, it was significant because it felt like home. The clinical social worker had come from Nigeria for a ‘‘better life’’ and had been able to sponsor his brother and his family, including Osas, to come to New Zealand.
Even wearing traditional Nigerian garb, including wearing beads passed down from generations before, Ogbah said he had always felt like a Cantabrian.
He had spent time in Auckland and on the West Coast but there was something about this part of the country that felt right.
‘‘I feel grateful. I have awesome friends, a great career,’’ Ogbah said.
‘‘Now I can officially say I am a Kiwi. I am from Otautahi.’’