Spencer Thomas honoured in New Zealand

26 April 2010 | International news release

Cited for his great contribution towards the success of the Helping Islands Adapt meeting and his global leadership on the environment, Dr Spencer Thomas from Grenada and member of the steering committee of the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA), was honoured today by the New Zealand Government with the presentation of a “Taonga” -- a national treasure of the New Zealand people.

Auckland, April 16, 2010. The Taonga is a pounamu (greenstone), which is a precious stone from the riverbeds of New Zealand. Pounamu is owned by the major indigenous peoples (iwi) of the South island of New Zealand known as Ngai Tahu. 

In the indigenous Maori culture of New Zealand, taonga cannot be purchased but are gifted to recognise importance or high standing referred to as ‘mana’ in local parlance.
“This gift acknowledges your inspired and constructive leadership of this meeting, your leadership within the Convention on Biological Diversity and internationally.” Remarks Andrew Bignell, Manager External Relations, Department of Conservation, New Zealand.

“You now carry the responsibility to continue leading this work. The meeting participants acknowledge you through this gift and entrusts you with carrying this work forward. This is a significant gift in Maori culture and represents a bond between the workshop participants from islands all over the world, the Maori people and the New Zealand government.” 

In accordance with the culture, every participant in the workshop held the pounamu before it was presented to Dr. Thomas, and he now has a responsibility to continue to champion the needs of islands people. Dr Thomas has committed to fulfilling that responsibility while proudly wearing this treasure of New Zealand.