New Zealanders Respond to the Christchurch Mosque Attacks

By Lorraine Ferrier
Lorraine Ferrier
Lorraine Ferrier
March 18, 2019 Updated: March 19, 2019

AUCKLAND, New Zealand—Communities throughout New Zealand are coming together both in disbelief and collective grief in the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque massacres.

On March 16, a day after the attacks in the country’s South Island, many events around the nation were canceled due to security concerns, and as a mark of respect for those affected by the attacks. The final day of the ASB Polyfest, the largest Polynesian festival in the world, was one of those events.

People gather around flags at half-mast
“ASB Polyfest” staff, organizers, and community leaders come together to reflect on the Christchurch mosque attacks, in Auckland, New Zealand, on March 16, 2019. (Lorraine Ferrier/The Epoch Times)

The Epoch Times asked ASB Polyfest staff, organizers, and community leaders, as they came together to reflect, how they think New Zealand can heal from this tragedy.

Roger Jolley, Maori Strategy Adviser, Ministry of Education

Kiwis are resilient people: We take it on the chin, and we move on. When faced with adversity, we pull together when we need to, and we achieve some great things.

I can see some good coming out of this.

The other side of it is that for Maori and Pasifika [Pacific Island] people, we are warrior people; we understand life and death and what that means, so being able to connect spiritually through the understanding of life and death is going to put us all in good stead.

Two man standing outside
(L) Roger Jolley, strategy advisor Maori at the Ministry of Education and (R) Greg Pierce, chair of the “ASB Polyfest” Trust. (Lorraine Ferrier/The Epoch Times)

Greg Pierce, Chair, ASB Polyfest Trust

My immediate response to that is I think we are really fortunate that we are a strong spiritual place, built up over many centuries.

Rangi McLean, National Cultural Adviser

Man in front of flags
Rangi McLean, national cultural adviser. (Lorraine Ferrier/The Epoch Times)

By doing things like [gathering as a community]. I suppose this is something unique to us because of our culture. One of the good things is that over the 200-plus years since the English came over, we’ve intermixed our cultures. For example, I’m a Tuhoe [Maori tribe] with Scottish heritage, and for me, I acknowledge that.

I’m proudly, staunchly, fiercely Tuhoe, but I will say that I am also Scottish and it’s with that type of interlink in our thinking throughout—which is what proud New Zealand is—it permeates throughout the country. People will say that they are Ngapuhi [Maori tribe], for example, but they will also acknowledge their English heritage, their Scottish heritage, or their Irish heritage, as it is with our Pacific Island brothers and sisters.

Seiuli Terri Leo-Mauu, Event Director, ASB Polyfest

Woman giving a speech
Seiuli Terri Leo-Mauu, “ASB Polyfest” event director. (ASB Polyfest)

New Zealand is such a diverse country with so many different cultures. I’d say we’re a resilient culture. So the way we’re going to recover is just step by step.

We see these things on TV all the time and hear about it in the news hitting other countries, such as America and England, but you never think it is going to hit you so close to home.

Our hearts do go out to Christchurch—they have gone through a lot, and now this has happened as well.

As our prime minister said, New Zealand has changed forever now because of this incident, but it also means that we need to prepare for anything [that] arises again.

We canceled this event on our terms: You haven’t defeated us.

Moresby Peseta, Tutor at Christchurch Boys High School

When Polyfest was cancelled, the boys with Christchurch Boys High School Polyfest Group that I tutor thought it was a good idea to sing about strength and unity.

We were all very sad for the local Muslim community and are trying out best to stay strong and do what we can do, whether it’s prayer or song.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Lorraine Ferrier
Lorraine Ferrier