Rotarians discover ‘blissful’ Taranaki District 9940 covers all Rotary clubs south of a line from the mouth of the Mokau River to Cape Turnagain through Mt Ruapehu.

The Rotary group were welcomed by the people of Parihaka.
The Rotary group were welcomed by the people of Parihaka.

A visit to Parihaka in New Zealand was inspirational and informative, says the descendant of a family who settled in the area to farm more than a century ago. Martin Garcia was one of a 50-strong group of Rotarians welcomed on to the small coastal Maori settlement during the annual Rotary 9940 District Conference 2017.

“Like Parihaka, Rotary values peace and inter-cultural understanding,” said Garcia who is D9940 Rotary Governor.

The people of Parihaka adopted peaceful resistance long before the likes of inspirational leaders such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King. “The story of Parihaka is a nationally significant piece of history,” Garcia said.

On a more personal level, the former New Plymouth man said when he spoke at the marae (meeting grounds of Maori community), he made a comment of why the area was important to him. His grandmother was married on a farm just up the road in 1908, a year after the funeral of Te Whiti o Rongomai.

The service organisation prides itself on diversity and friendship and the group was grateful to the coastal hosts for the unique experience. International Rotary director Saowalak Rattanavich from Thailand was a guest at the conference and she got to see first hand how the Kiwi arm of the movement rolls.

The 9940 District covers all Rotary clubs south of a line from the mouth of the Mokau River to Cape Turnagain through Mt Ruapehu. This was the first time since 2005 that Taranaki had hosted the three-day event.

Garcia’s strong ties to Taranaki made it an obvious decision to help sway the event this way. “I wanted to draw people to the region to show them what we have got to offer,” the FDMC old boy said.

Nearly 250 Rotarians came together to celebrate the differences in their communities and to experience the region like no other.

The out-of-towners got to experience an unrivalled line-up of things to do and see. A tour of the Fun Ho National Toy Museum, Stoney Oaks Wildlife Park, a stone sculptor demonstration, and a spot of golf, to name a few.

On a more serious note, a number of guest speakers gave the attendees food for thought with some moving and thought-provoking presentations. They included: Dame Susan Devoy, Jamie Tuuta, former Chief of the NZ Defence Force Sir Bruce Ferguson, polio survivor Brian Bourke and former refugee Daniel Gamboa.

On a lighter note, an “Out on the Town” themed evening was a chance for the like-minded members to socialise.

The conference officially finished on the Sunday, however participants were encouraged to extend their stay to explore a little more.

Nine local chapters currently serve their communities; Waitara, Ngamotu, New Plymouth North, New Plymouth West, Pukekura Breakfast, Fitzroy, Inglewood, Stratford, and Hawera. 

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RI Director Bharat Pandya is Treasurer for Rotary International for 2020-21, when Holgar Knaack will be RI President, JohritaSolari will be the Vice President and Stephanie Urchick, the Executive Committee Chair.