Biggest intake of citizens and first time affirmation in Maori

It was a day for the history books.

Yesterday, the Queenstown Lakes welcomed 82 new citizens, the largest number in a single ceremony to date in the district, including two women who became the first in the resort to give their affirmation in Maori.

Alice Conway (37), originally from Buckinghamshire, in the United Kingdom and Clare Evans (42), originally from Chester, UK, read the affirmation together, having spent several weeks practising.

Mrs Conway, who has lived in New Zealand for almost eight years, is in her first year of studying the Southern Institute of Technology’s te reo Maori course. When she received her citizenship letter, the Queenstown Lakes District Council planner noted giving the affirmation in Maori was not an option, so asked if she could.

"I thought it would be cool to do it in Maori ...  it felt right doing it in te reo.

"I asked and they said, ‘Yes, absolutely’."

Miss Evans, a graphic designer for Colliers, has been here six years and completed the first two years of her te reo Maori study, doing so "to become part of New Zealand".

Queenstown residents Alice Conway (left) and Clare Evans, both originally from the United Kingdom...
Queenstown residents Alice Conway (left) and Clare Evans, both originally from the United Kingdom, pictured with New Zealand’s newest citizens and some elected representatives, including Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult in the resort yesterday. Miss Evans and Mrs Conway became the first people in the Wakatipu to have taken their affirmation in Maori. Photo: Tracey Roxburgh
The pair were helped by Maori tutor and council employee Cory Ratahi to prepare for their big moment yesterday — and were acknowledged soon after by their fellow students who did a waiata tautoko for them during the ceremony, led by Mr Ratahi.Afterwards Mrs Evans said it was a privilege to become a New Zealander. Miss Conway said it meant "everything".

"For me, it’s whanau. Being part of the family of New Zealand and really understanding what ‘whanau’ means."It [citizenship] is a heart thing, it’s not a piece of paper."

During the ceremony, Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult told the new citizens he wished them every joy and success in their new lives in Aotearoa.

"Tena koutou.  Welcome home."

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