HON. Phil Goff (Leader of the Opposition) inaugurated the 3rd New Zealand National Hindu Conference on May 15, 2010 at the Hindu Heritage Centre, Auckland by lighting the lamp in the traditional Hindu way. The theme of the Conference was “Sustaining New Zealand through strengthening bond among communities”.
Respected dignitaries, Kaumatua Haare Williams, His Worship Len Brown (Mayor of Manukau City), Members of Parliament Dr Rajen Prasad (Labour), Keith Locke (Green), and representatives of a number of community organisations and Government agencies attended the conference. The invited guests received a traditional Hindu welcome. Som Sharma and Bhavisha Daya (President and Secretary of New Zealand Hindu Students Forum, respectively), garlanded the dignitaries.
Shri Haare Williams blessed the occasion with a Maori traditional prayer. During the opening ceremony, prayers from Tao, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Samoan were recited. Many participants appreciated the organisers for this unique experience.
In his address to the conference, Hon. Phil Goff said that he was privileged to inaugurate the conference in the line of great leaders such as Hon Helen Clark, then Prime Minister of New Zealand and respected Maori King opening the conference in previous years. He recognised the contribution of Hindu community to New Zealand. His Worship Len Brown reaffirmed the statement of the previous Mayor who mentioned that Manukau is the most multi-ethnic city in New Zealand and can be considered as the Hindu capital of New Zealand. Maori Elder Hare Williams said that he felt honoured whenever he joined the congregation. He was especially uplifted by the manner in which Hindu youth were so responsive and connected to their roots. Keith Locke mentioned that there are lots of similarities between Hindu traditions (respect for environment- air, water bodies, mountains, flora and fauna) and Green Party principles.
Shri Vinod Kumar, the President of the Hindu Council of New Zealand, welcomed all the delegates. He briefed delegates about the outcomes of the 1st and 2nd New Zealand National Hindu conferences. Smt Pritika Sharma, conference coordinator and central secretary of the Hindu Council, was the master of ceremonies.
In his keynote address, Dr Guna Magesan, General Secretary of Hindu Council, informed the audience on the work carried out by the organisation – strengthening bonds between New Zealand communities, developing the potential of the youth, and understanding and experiencing the Maori culture by celebrating Matariki (Maori New Year) and Marae stays, to name a few. He presented a well researched update on the educational and professional achievements by the New Zealand’s Hindu community.
The first plenary session on ‘Working with Government and their Agencies’ was chaired by Shri Joris De Bres, Race Relations Commissioner and was well received by the delegates. Shri Joris De Bres appreciated the Hindu Council of New Zealand for engaging with Maori community, and developing the Hindu-Maori relations. Representatives from the Ministry of Education, NZ Police, and Office of Ethnic Affairs presented information regarding their agencies, and a good discussion took place on teaching Hindi language in schools, and having a value-based education system; and on community safety.
The second plenary session was on ‘Collaboration among Hindu organisations, temples and associations’. Swami Vigyananand, Coordinator of Civilisational Association of South, South-East & East Asia shared his international experience on the importance of collaboration among Hindu organisations. Following his presentation and a group discussion, over 20 New Zealand Hindu Organisations, Temples and Associations joined the HOTA forum. More are expected to join soon.
The second day of the conference had three plenary sessions. They were “Understanding Dharma Civilisation and Working Together” chaired by Swami Vigyananand; “Bridging the gap among Hindus coming from different countries” chaired by Dr Rajen Prasad, a member of New Zealand Parliament and “Strengthening bond among Bharatiya Dharma” chaired by Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, a member of New Zealand Parliament. Dr Prasad identified key issues to bridge the gap between the Hindus coming from various countries.
The final session was chaired by Kulan Kokulan. In this session, Nitika Sharma spoke about Way Forward and Smt Mamta Bhikha proposed a vote of thanks.
The milestone outcome of this conference is the launch of a forum made up of Hindu Organisations, Temples and Associations (HOTA).
The second outcome is the announcement of the 2nd New Zealand National Hindu Youth conference to be held on 7-8 May 2011.