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Published: 20 May 2023

By Andy Ross

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Ethnic Fair 2023

The West Coast of Aotearoa New Zealand has long been a place of immigration.

Maori people came to the Coast first and found pounamu, the green stone from which weapons and jewellery are made and which is easily still found locally. The discovery of gold and coal, and the abundance of timber, led to the Coast being settled by Europeans and new industries and businesses started, and with that came people from across the globe. Today, the Coast is a place of many cultures, as multi-faceted as anywhere in modern Aotearoa New Zealand. 

This weekend saw the first Ethnic Fair, a multi-cultural celebration of food, music and dance, in Mawhera Greymouth. The event was sheld in the atrium of the local Polytech, Tai Poutini, and in the grounds, and from 11am until 3pm people gathered to see a cooking demonstration of Jamaican Jerk Chicken, rice and salad by Jax Hamilton, to listen to songs from many countries, and to watch performance and dance from India, the Philipines and the USA. Pancha Narayanan from MultiCultural New Zealand flew down from Wellington for the opening, and Mayor Tania Gibson officially welcomed everyone and opened the Fair, along with Radha Nambiar from New Coasters. 

When we first arrived in town, last year in February, Greymouth seemed to have very little diversity. That was entirely the wrong impression, of course. It was due to the places we visited, where tourism ensured that we mainly saw visitors and not locals and it was only late last year, at an event in town for Christmas where suddenly we saw lots of different communities come out onto the streets to celebrate, that we realised we were missing a far bigger picture. It was a relief, coming from London with its hugely diverse and visible population, but I should have learned from Shetland where there is an equally diverse community but one that is less evident simply because the population is small. 

I was lucky enough to be asked to be the MC for the Ethnic Fair and it was a pleasure to see how many people came along to find out what was going on, to take part, and to enjoy the entertainment and atmosphere. There were plenty of amazing costumes and cloths in evidence, lots of delicious food being prepared and a buzz of excitement.

I hope next time around that the Fair is bigger and better. Thank you to the organisers, especially Cassandra, New Coasters, Vibrant West Coast, Tai Poutini Polytech and to all who participated. Long live diversity!