Jay | Whanganui, Manawatū-Whanganui

“I think I feel grateful every day. Grateful for the good things and the bad things. So there’s always opportunities to feel grateful. For instance, yesterday we installed a sign down at Pākaitore, and if people know about the reclamation that happened back in 1995, our iwi went down to that little piece of land that used to be known as Moutoa Gardens, and we occupied that space in an effort to reclaim it.

So 25 years ago, I was 14 years of age and had no idea what we were up to, I thought we were going on a camping trip in the middle of town, and 25 years later, looking back on it, it was a massive learning point for me, learning about rangatiratanga, about reclaiming our sacred spaces. If you go down there today, the place looks largely the same as it did 25 years ago, and you can’t really see our people in that place. So being able to go down and put a piece of us down there to celebrate the name, the stories that that place holds, I’m really grateful to have been a part of that whole journey from a 14 year old where our people peacefully reclaimed that land. To now where the partnerships between local iwi, local government and central government are well enough that we can actually sit down in that space and kōrero, and share and be able to pass on some of the important knowledge about that place. I’m grateful for every moment. There were moments down there that were hard. One of the moments was being shot at by someone from across the river, people yelling abuse, people saying things about those of us that were there at the time that just weren’t true, and a lot of it fuelled by misinformation. But I’m grateful for that too because it offers us an opportunity to carry on the conversation, to add into the discussion and to breathe life into those kinds of moments. So, I’m grateful every day that I wake up. I’m grateful for my tamariki. I’m grateful for the trials and tribulations that happen in all our lives because, as one of my mates always says, it’s character-building, you learn from it. You learn from those things, and they grow you into the person that you are now. So, I don’t regret any of the things that have happened in my life, and I’m grateful for every moment of it.

I was born and bred here on the river. I grew up here my whole life. I went to school here. I’ve worked here all my life and I’ll probably never leave this place. I love Whanganui, I’m passionately in love with this place. So, when I hear people talk about it, I want to make sure that they are saying nice things about us. I work in the community doing boring stuff around alcohol and drug policy, but also helping people to start up small businesses, and I do a lot of volunteer work in the rangatahi space. So, just building relationships, positive relationships with our young people here in Whanganui, because any adult that’s grown up with adversity will talk about that one positive influence that they had in their lives. So, I want to try and be that person for someone, even if it’s only one person. There’s a saying, try and be the person that you needed when you were young, and so I try to stick to that. 

So there’s a whakataukī that I kind of live by and it’s well known around this place, and it’s um, ko au te taupā kīhai i puāwai āku moemoeā and it just means that we are the only obstacle to the fruition of our dreams. So, if anything’s going to get in the way of achieving what you want to achieve, it’s probably going to be yourself. So, get out of your own way.”

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