A week of celebrating Tuvaluan language and culture will be capped off tomorrow with a celebration of Tuvalu’s independence.
Tuvalu Language Week events have been held every day this week in Oamaru, to promote the language and culture of the small Pacific nation.
It was important to keep the language and culture alive as many of the island’s population migrated to bigger countries, Tuvalu Language Week organiser Maiele Amosa-Paia said.
“We have had lots of activities with the wider community and that has been awesome – we have had a huge amount of positive feedback,” she said.
Oamaru Tuvalu Community Group president Robert Laupula said there were about 150 Tuvaluan people living in Oamaru.
Tuvalu is a group of very small islands in Polynesia with a population of about 12,000 people.
Its highest point of elevation is 4.6m above sea level, which gives Tuvalu the second-lowest maximum elevation of any country in the world.
It was in a precarious position with the effects of climate change and sea levels rising and that was one of the reasons people were migrating to New Zealand, Mr Laupula said.
“There is scientific proven evidence, which is why people in our country are fighting for climate change action.”
On Wednesday, as part of the celebrations, members of the Tuvaluan community held a clean-up of rubbish at Friendly Bay.
Taking part in the clean-up was Cavanagh Saumanaia, who was born in Tuvalu and lived in Auckland for 18 years before moving to Oamaru in 2014.
“When I came down here to visit my uncle, I just fell in love with the place,” he said.
“You can just walk to the shops, not traffic everywhere, it felt like home.”
Having a large Pacific Island population in Oamaru made the move easier, and there were good opportunities for the Tuvaluan people who moved here, he said.
“The meat works has a lot of opportunities, and the housing is a lot cheaper than Auckland.”
The Tuvaluan language was similar to Samoan, as the people there had used the Samoan bible until recently, he said.
Tomorrow, the local community will host the South Island celebration of Tuvalu independence at St Paul’s Church.