A small marae (maori meeting house) stands at the entrance to the polytech and it is here that people gather on special occasions.
I'm not going to try to explain the protocols of the powhiri because they are quite complicated.
The visitors (the students) wait to be called on to the marae. The team I work with arrange this special day, we watch nervously as the students gather for Orientation Day, hoping for a good turnout (but not tooo many, we don't want to run out of food!) In the days leading up to the powhiri we worry about the weather, especially for the Semester 2 (winter) powhiri and have back up plans for rainy days. Today there were no worries about the weather. There was a frost earlier on, always a sure sign of a clear, sunny day to follow.
When called the new students move forward into the wharenui:
They remove their shoes before entering the wharenui.
A visitor who has never set foot on a marae is known as waewae tapu or sacred feet. They must partake in a formal welcoming ceremony, called a pōwhiri, to remove the tapu (sacredness) and become one people with those of the marae.
Looks like these girls spotted me with the camera. Aren't they beautiful? Their smiles match the warm sunshine of the morning.
The best, the very best part of the Orientation Day, is when it's all over, it's gone well, everyone is happy and my wine glass is full. (If there are any complaints they will come tomorrow and tomorrow is another day.)