New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister, Nanaia Mahuta paid her respects to the newly installed Gone Turaga Bale na Vunivalu na Tui Kaba, Ratu Epenisa Cakobau on the chiefly island of Bau on Friday.
Minister Mahuta is the first high-level official to visit the Vunivalu since his installation last week.
In receiving the delegation, Vunivalu na Tui Kaba, Ratu Epenisa thanked the Aotearoa Minister for visiting his island home during her stay in Fiji and stated that Fiji’s connections with New Zealand remains deeply rooted.
It was an emotional visit for the New Zealand delegation as it was to also strengthen indigenous ties between the Māori and iTaukei cultures.
“I want to acknowledge the honour that was extended to the New Zealand delegation to be able to pay our respects to Ratu Epenisa the Vunivalu na Tui Kaba who had been recently installed. It’s significant for Māori because the last time we had someone from New Zealand visit (Bau) was when the father of the current Vunivalu passed away,” said Mahuta.
“I felt a particular sense of gratitude and honour that we could come here and acknowledge the installation of the chief, and the hope and opportunity that he provides to his people.”
The island of Bau shares a deep cultural connection with the Māori people, one that dates to when Māori ancestors voyaged Hawaiki and had to find refuge on the island of Bau after their waka Tākitimu (canoe) was met with an unfortunate event.
To show their appreciation to the people of Bau, the New Zealand delegation presented a ‘Mere pounamu’ (greenstone weapon) to Ratu Epenisa to thank his people for their hospitality to the ancestral voyagers.
Mahuta and the Vunivalu na Tui Kaba also spoke on common areas of interest – family connections, history, sports, education, the love of culture, language and traditions and the connections between Fiji and New Zealand.