The 75th Otaki Scholar, Cameron Stephen, Kāpiti Future Leaders’ Forum and Exhibition

     

It is often said that it takes a village raise a child but in recent times it is very clear that a village can also support its schools. We have recently hosted the 75th Otaki Scholar to arrive in New Zealand and once again his journey commenced in our town beside the river that is our link to this long-standing tradition.
The events that took place to highlight the 75th milestone could not have been undertaken without strong community support which dates back to 2008 when a commitment was obtained from the British High Commission and Department of Internal Affairs that Ōtaki would always commence hosting the Otaki Scholar. This only came about through the work of Rupene Waaka and Ngā Hapū o Ōtaki connecting with Raukawa George Fergusson (son of Sir Bernard Fergusson) who was the British High Commisioner to New Zealand at that time and who at age 10 had been bestowed a status of Chief within Ngāti Raukawa.
Moving on since that time, many people have been involved in supporting the Otaki Scholar while he has stayed in our community. I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Claire Clark, Project Co-ordinator, Rex Kerr and Judith Miller, Exhibition Curators and David Ledson and Bob Ohlson, Forum Committee members, for all of their work in planning, co-ordinating and supporting the Kāpiti Future Leaders’ Forum, the visit of the Otaki Scholar and the Ōtaki Museum Exhibition “The Otaki Scholar and Ōtaki - A legacy of World War One”. My thanks also to Rupene Waaka and Ngā Hapū o Ōtaki for hosting the Leadership Forum at Raukawa Marae and to key funders of these events:
NZ Lotteries, Te Puni Kōkiri, KCDC and Te Whakaminenga o Kāpiti, Hammer Hardware Ōtaki, Farmlands Ōtaki and Marlan Trading Ltd.
In closing I would like to share with you a summary of events provided by Admiral Ledson, Former Chief of Navy:
75TH OTAKI SCHOLAR ENDS 11 DAY VISIT TO ŌTAKI
On 27th July, this year’s Otaki Scholar from Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen, Cameron Stephen, ended an 11 day visit to Ōtaki. The township was the first stop on his 6 week visit to New Zealand, during which he will visit 11 secondary schools and colleges. During his stay in Ōtaki, Cameron was formally welcomed to Ōtaki College. He also visited a number of local points of interest, as well as meeting up with some local personalities; all aimed at giving him a sense of the special character of Ōtaki and the Kāpiti Coast.
However, the focus of Cameron’s visit was a series of special events to recognise that he is the 75th Otaki Scholar to visit New Zealand; a significant milestone in a programme which has its origins in a battle between a New Zealand merchant ship(SS Otaki) and a German armed cruiser(SMS Moewe) over 100 years ago and the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross to the Otaki’s captain.

The central event was a youth development activity, the Kāpiti Future Leaders’ Forum, arranged by Ōtaki College and hosted at Raukawa Marae over two and a half days from 19 July. This was attended by thirty-eight Year 12 students from fourteen schools across New Zealand; including from the Kāpiti Coast. As well as the opportunity to engage with high calibre keynote speakers such as Sir Anand Satyanand, Te Waari Carkeek and Captain Corina Bruce from the Royal New Zealand Navy, highlights of the Forum included meeting the Governor-General and Sir David Gascoigne at Government House, and visits to the Great War Exhibition and National War Memorial. Feedback from the students attending the Forum to Ōtaki College Principal Andy Fraser was that the Forum had provided a fantastic opportunity to reflect on youth school and community leadership – and to discuss those concepts with a great group of participants.

Complementing the Forum was an exhibition at the Ōtaki Museum. This Exhibition, which will run until September, was opened by the Kāpiti Coast Mayor on 19 July. Titled ‘The Otaki
Scholar and Ōtaki’, it incorporates both traditional and contemporary approaches in telling the story of the relationship between the town and the Scholar from the very first Otaki Scholar’s to visit New Zealand. An innovative element in the Exhibition is an IT system which incorporates a touch screen capability. This system, purchased mainly by Lottery funding, was fundamental in enabling Ōtaki College students to make a unique contribution to both the Exhibition and the Forum. It will be available in the future to support appropriate community events. Judith Miller, Museum Trust Chair, said she was delighted by the involvement of Ōtaki College students in putting the Exhibition together and hoped that there would be other opportunities in the future for the Trust and College to work together.

Sitting between the Exhibition and the Forum was a formal welcome onto Raukawa Marae for Cameron Stephen and the Kāpiti Future Leaders’ Forum participants; for many of whom this was the first visit to a marae. Andy Fraser remarked that the pōwhiri at Raukawa Marae is an important part of the Otaki Scholar’s time in Ōtaki and that, on this occasion, the generosity of the Marae Trusts in making the marae available for the Forum, meant it would be a uniquely New Zealand experience for those attending it.

Andy Fraser said that an important reason for the success of the programme for the Otaki Scholar was the extent of the local support for it. He remarked that he is always grateful for
the generous contributions of local businesses and individuals. Asked to identify the highlight of the programme, Andy replied that while there were a number, the one that stuck out was
the character of the young people who attended that Forum, and their enthusiasm to make the most of the opportunity they had been given.