PM Pohiva’s visits electrify Hawkes Bay’s Tongan fruit pickers and community

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One of the group leaders of the Tongan fruit pickers in Hastings told Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva he felt he could not sleep that night because of how exhilarated he was after meeting him at his work place.

Mateaki Kivalu was tearful when he spoke during the reception for Hon. Pohiva and his entourage on Monday night.

He reminded the Prime Minister that while he was visiting Mr Apple’s orchard that afternoon in the rain he was the one who held the umbrella over him.

He said he would never forget that incident in his life.

A Tongan manager at the Moffett orchards, Misiteni Fameitau, was so emotional that he repeatedly forgot to describe Hon. Pohiva as the Prime Minister to his Tongan workers.

Instead he repeatedly asked to pose for photos with “this man.”

“This man is coming here for the first time, please come over and let’s pose for photo with the man,” he said in Tongan.

When Kaniva News asked him whether he knew Hon. Pohiva was the Prime Minister of Tonga Fameitau said he was lost for words after he shook hands with him.

After the photos he thanked  the Prime Minister tearfully and said he has been in the orchards with his family for about 28 years now. He said it was the first time they had met a leading figure like him.

Mr. Apple’s Labour Manager Allister Jamieson could not withhold his sentiments and at one stage he stood up and danced happily to the music played by the band during the reception for the Prime Minister.

It rained throughout the Prime Minister’s visit to Hawkes Bay and was still raining when he left on Tuesday morning back to Auckland.

Jamieson welcomed Hon. Pohiva at the dinner reception at his workplace and said there was a Maori saying that when the rain falls there are tears of happiness.

“Heaven is so happy that you are here Mr Prime Minister that it is going to rain for the next two days”, Jamieson laughed.

Hon. Pohiva’s CEO ‘Ana Bing Fonua was emotional and tearful when she was speaking to the more than 200 hundred fruit pickers, community leaders and members as well as Tongan church ministers at the reception.

Fonua told Jamieson she was emotional when she came into the building and saw that it was decorated with Tongan mats and ngatu.

The building was full and many were standing outside in the rain watching and listening during the two hour event.

Fruit picker’s musical talent

The Tongan fruit picker’s acoustic band performed on the night.

One new song was composed in Tongan by group leader Sepuloni Fe’ao about the way they pick apples, the difficulties they had faced after leaving their families in Tonga and come to New Zealand to work in the orchards.

The name of the Mr Apple company and the Prime Minister were included in the lyrics.

When the song was played it triggered euphoria in the gathering. One of the fruit pickers stood up, bowed his head with his hands stretching out in front of him and instantly lowered his body down. Jeering and calling out, he performed the tu’ulafale.

Another man jumped up and joined the tu’ulafale and this time the crowd cheered and some walked in and performed the fakapale, sticking dollar notes on the dancers’ body, as a show of mafana (warmth).

After having his dinner the Prime Minister left his seat and walked past some of those fruit pickers sitting on the floor at the side and sat with those in the middle.

Jamieson also joined him on the floor.

The guests began vying to have their photos taken with the Prime Minister.

It was clear from the speeches during the reception, the facial appearance and conversations at the end of the function that the visit had an unprecedented impact on the Tongan community in Hastings.

The Tongan coordinator in Hawkes Bay, Tevita Niulata, said he could see the reception was exceptional compared with any receptions they had before.

He said it was the Prime Minister’s easy going and light hearted attitudes that added to the brilliant mood they had during the reception.

The main points

  • One of the group leaders of the Tongan fruit pickers in Hastings told Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva he felt he could not sleep that night because of how exhilarated he was after meeting him at his work place.
  • Pohiva was welcomed to a reception on Monday night.
  • The building was full and many were standing outside in the rain watching and listening during the two hour event.
  • The guest began vying to have their photos taken with the Prime Minister.

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