For a small nation, New Zealand is making its presence felt in a big way at the World Expo in Dubai.
Among the sights and sounds is the Aotearoa New Zealand Pavilion’s telling of the unique story of the Whanganui River.
In 2017, the river was granted personhood status to reflect Whanganui iwi’s relationship with it, and to address historical actions by the Crown that eroded its ecological quality.
Hayden Turoa (Ngāti Patutokotoko, Ngāti Hekeāwai), project director of the Whanganui Port Revitalisation project, likened the pavilion to waka huia (containers that hold treasured items) and what was inside the taonga.
He said the taonga that New Zealand was gifting and showcasing was its values and practices.
It also represented a call to action to the rest of the world.
“The future’s indigenous, and the opportunities to go back to our indigenous communities and learn how we can work with our natural environment and celebrate those relationships that all people have to the environment is essential,” Turoa said.
Also among New Zealand’s offerings is Kiwi-founded gym Les Mills — its workouts at the expo made sure visitors were catching their breath.
Les Mills' Glen Stolley said Les Mills classes were popular in the United Arab Emirates.
“We’re kind of an iconic Kiwi brand, so it’s really important we’re here and we’re present."
Clayton Kimpton, New Zealand's Commissioner-General to Expo 2020, said the aim of the showcases were to make sure Aotearoa was “front of mind” with nations it was working with.
Kimpton had previously told 1News New Zealand can expect more than $300 million in returns as it showcases itself at the World Expo.
More than 190 countries are participating in the expo, which happens once every five years.
It was scheduled to run in 2020, but was delayed because of Covid-19. It features three categories - mobility, opportunities, and sustainability - with New Zealand’s Pavilion exhibit within the latter.
Expo 2020 Dubai will run until March 31, 2022.