Australian PM Scott Morrison and his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern on May 30 met in Queenstown, marking their first talk in person since the coronavirus closed borders in 2020. The two leaders hinted at expanding the trans-Tasman travel bubble to include other Pacific Islands and they shared a traditional Maori Hongi greeting that signified the sharing of life force. While taking to Instagram, Ardern shared a picture in which the two leaders are seen touching noses and sharing breath.
In the caption, Ardern said, “It’s been such an incredibly hard year since then, so to be able to finally welcome the PM here felt really special. Thank you to Ngāi Tahu for the pōwhiri, and for the very special gifts you shared with Scott Morrison and his wife Jenny”.
It is worth noting that according to Maori tradition it is said that the god Tāne-nui-a-Rangi moulded the shape of the first woman, Hine-ahu-one, from Earth and breathed life into her by pressing his nose against hers. The Maori ceremony also included a New Zealand representative singing Waltzing Matilda in Māori. They both emphasised that the two countries “shared prosperity” and Ardern also said that “family is incredibly important, and Australia, you are family”.
Meanwhile, given their success in tackling COVID-19, both leaders engaged in some backslapping over the border reopening. Their meet is politically significant as well as it is believed to be the first meeting of world leaders without masks in a nation devoid of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. It is only Morrison’s second time leaving Australia in more than a year and he noted the last time he met Ardern was in Sydney at the start of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, in 1987 Maori was made an official language of New Zealand. Many Maori cultural practices are kept alive in contemporary New Zealand. All formal Maori gatherings are accompanied by oratory in Maori; action songs; formal receptions of visitors, accompanied by the hongi, or pressing together of noses on greeting, and sometimes by ritual challenges; and cooking of food in earth ovens (haangi) on preheated stones.
Maori have played a role in the governing of New Zealand since the mid-19th century when Maori members first entered Parliament. Seven seats out of a total of 120 are reserved for Maori in the New Zealand Parliament. All voters who claim Maori ancestry may vote in a Maori electoral district, but a Maori may register in either a Maori or a non-Maori (general) district.