A recount of TEDxTauranga 2021 – RE:Imagine

by Carly Shorter

After a long wait, the big day finally arrived.

TEDxTauranga has transformed the auditorium of the University of Waikato’s Tauranga campus. With the bright red X standing tall as a beacon of new ideas worth spreading, bright lights illuminating the stage, and native plants softening the atmosphere, we were in for a treat.

With well over 2000 volunteer hours and just a few months of organising, the TEDxTauranga team has achieved yet another sold out event. Slightly different to events of the past, today there are just 100 lucky ticket holders which makes for a far more intimate experience.

The renowned Matua Tamati Tata welcomed the TEDxTauranga whānau with a gracious mihi whakatau.  
  Matua Tamati Tata. Photo: Karlie Morrow

Meng Foon (NZ Race Relations Commissioner) responded and acknowledged Matariki. With the opening customs kicked off, MC Shelly Davies comes on stage to start the show.

Shelly Davies

Shelly, a TEDx alumna knows the drill and encouraged us to use the information shared tonight to spark exciting conversations. Roger that, Shelly. 
Shelly Davies. Photo: Karlie Morrow 

Tonight’s theme: Reimagine. 
Vitale Lafaele  

  • 1st Pasifika Officer to be appointed Area Commander in Tamaki Makaurau.  
  • 1st Samoan Officer to be appointed Area Commander in Aotearoa. 
  • 1st Pasifika Officer Tactical Commander Special Tactics Group (NZ’s version of SWAT).  

Vitale dropped us into a moment in time– July 2007. He’s having breakfast when the alert comes in regarding a hostage situation in New Lynn, Auckland. At the scene with pressure mounting, a sniper in his earpiece is saying he can see hostages kneeling and the offender with a pistol to their heads, his crew waiting for instructions. Vitale, as the leader, wrestled with the call to take a life – “Do I take the shot?”

After a three-hour siege and failed negotiations, Vitale made the unprecedented decision to use explosives and gain entry to the scene. This is the first time this action has been taken in either New Zealand or Australia. Hostages were saved, no one hurt and, anti-climactically, the pistol turned out to be a plastic replica.

Having grown up in poverty, unable to speak a word of English at his first day of school, marginalised and bullied, Vitale believes his decision that day was governed by his strongly held values and beliefs of; humour, humility, respect, and honesty, which he learned through his aiga (family). 

Challenging idea: Reimagine leadership through the lens of your firmly held values and beliefs. How far are you willing to go to do what you feel is right?

Action you can take: Identify your core values and let them be your guide to your true leadership style.

 Vitale Lafaele. Photo: Karlie Morrow

Matt Watkins 

He’s local and has a keen interest in design and architecture. Matt began his talk sharing a prediction from sailor and environmentalist, Alan McArthur, that by 2050 there will be more plastic, than fish in the sea. Matt challenged us to flip our view on plastic– the problem is not in the overproduction of plastic but in our single use behaviour.

PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate-number 1 plastics), most used as sushi containers and fizzy drink bottles, makes up 8% of all plastics made globally and 20% of all plastic packaging. Matt’s research states that PET is stronger and lighter than concrete and is incredibly durable. With our increasing challenges around how we build houses; the building materials, cost, and supply Matt reimagines how to decrease the recycled plastic waste mountain by utilising 3Dprinting, clever architecture and design to divert tens of thousands of tonnes of PET from our waste system. 

Challenging idea: When will we rise to the challenge and use plastic more effectively to create cooler, better, planet saving things?

Action you can take: There are already examples and prototypes in France, Germany and Dubai and yet, there are still some challenges with using plastics to build homes, but Matt’s ideas encourage conversation about the possibilities. 
Matt Watkins. Photo: Karlie Morrow 

Dr. Angela Loucks Alexander 

13 steps and a click – these were the sounds Angela looked forward to because it meant that she was going to get fed. Imprisoned in a basement from the ages of 13 to 17, and deprived of love, affection, and things we call basic humans needs, Angela knows what it is like to feel lonely and not see the sun, at times for months on end. Her father and stepmother repeatedly told her, “Children are to be seen and not heard.”  

Having finally been freed from her hell on earth, Angela finally experienced nurturing from her foster mum and began to live a life filled with new opportunities. Attending a lecture on Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) at the University of Kansas by Audiologist, Jack Katz, Angela experienced a lightbulb moment of connection with what she believes is her life’s work. APD can be described to be instances when you know people are talking but you can’t process the information or what they’re actually saying.

Now a doctor of audiology, Angela knows what it feels like to be lonely, frightened, and ashamed and it is intensely obvious she is committed to supporting people to feel liberated from their own figurative basements of APD.

Challenging idea: Auditory processing disorder exists! And it is not fixed with hearing aids, but with accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Action you can take: It can be frustrating being a parent, partner, or teacher of someone with APD, but you can encourage people to seek support through an Audiologist and ask about APD treatment options. 
Dr. Angela Loucks Alexander. Photo: Karlie Morrow 

After having our minds filled with ideas from three speakers, it’s time for a break and delicious kai in the beautiful Te Manawaroa room. Director of the campus, Joseph Macfarlane welcomed us and shared the stories and significance of the contemporary and traditional carvings adorning the walls of the room. We could feel the strong mana of the ancestors and their history in the atmosphere.  
Joseph Macfarlane. Photo Karlie Morrow 

Daniel from a local catering company ‘El Mono Loco’ curated a hearty plant-based dinner, fresh and full of flavour, the curry in particular was a party for the taste buds.

Having eaten and sparked many an exciting conversation, we returned to the electric auditorium, full and ready for the second half of the night.

Akash Dutta is a postgraduate student of the New Zealand Institute of Music who amazed us with his jazz inspired musical talents. Three pieces of musical genius for our listening pleasure:  

  1. ‘Spain’, a tribute to legendary jazz pianist Chick Corea who passed in February. 
  2. A yet unnamed but energetic piece Akash composed especially for this event and  
  3. A piece he calls ‘Typhoon’, another of his classical jazz compositions mixing, traditional Indian sounds with heavy metal on the piano.

Akash is indisputably a talented musician, and it was pure joy to witness his gift. He is indeed ‘one to watch’. 
Akash Dutta. Photo: Karlie Morrow 

Dr. Sandra Clair 

From Dunedin, Dr. Sandra Clair introduces Ötzi, an iceman who lived 5300 years ago. Scientific studies of Ötzi showed he suffered from whipworms, an intestinal parasite and amazingly it was also discovered that Ötzi carried with him medicinal plants as treatment— thinly sliced mushrooms and poppy seeds which have been proven to provide powerful antiparasitic qualities, and pain relief. 
A registered medical herbalist and health scientist, Sandra grew up in Switzerland where traditional plant medicines are a normal and subsided part of the Swiss public healthcare system. Sandra is advocating that we need policies and legislation that empower us to take control of our health and wellbeing and promote legitimate access to effective and safe traditional plant medicines, as well as pharmaceuticals. 

Even though the World Health Organisation recommends that traditional plant-based medicines are integrated into mainstream medicine, Aotearoa is the only country in the OECD that doesn’t support this as a legitimate healthcare option.

Challenging idea: Our healthcare system suffers from institutional bias, and we have not yet de-colonised our healthcare sector. The Health and Disability System Review 2020 for New Zealand highlights a need to shift from a sick care system to a health care system, and yet there is still no change in legislation.

Action you can take: Dr Sandra Clair says we need political muscle to sort the issues and in lieu of that encourages each of us to demand access to the best of both medical worlds and stop using the quick fix approach of pharmaceuticals as the only remedy. 
Dr. Sandra Clair. Photo: Karlie Morrow 

Meng Foon

He is the current New Zealand Race Relations Commissioner and ex-Mayor of Gisborne. 

Meng began by recounting a past reality of how one telephone exchange technician back in the day made headlines by saying “Kia ora” rather than “Hello”. He also reminded us that even in recent times a mihi (welcome) was perceived as “too much Māori” for some, right here in our very own city. 

Made in Hong Kong, born in Gisborne. Meng shared memories of his childhood. He is one of a handful of people of Chinese descent to have become a mayor in Aotearoa. He is also fluent in English, Cantonese and Māori. Meng enjoyed mimicking people from a young age and as a result, learnt the languages of local customers to his family’s produce shop.

Challenging idea: How can we incorporate indigenous values into everyday life? As we reimagine our country, the opportunity is to see it as a huge fruit bowl of nations and embrace the diversity of our thinking.

Action you can take: Use the original names for places and treat people like you were on a date – put a little extra energy into rewarding, complimenting, supporting, and encouraging the people you work and interact with. Tell people often what you think they will be great at and then support them to do it. 
Meng Foon. Photo: Karlie Morrow 

And with a massive round of applause, the speakers have concluded the intellectual part of the night.
The audience. Photo Karlie Morrow 

The lights brightened just a tad. The TEDxTauranga crew are acknowledged on stage for their incredible work. The speakers joined the line-up and Shelly taught us how to say I am proud of you in te reo Māori – “kei te tino poho kererū au kia koe”. This whakataukī translates to “Like the puffed-up chest of the kereru, my chest is puffed for you”. For those who missed out, the videos will be announced as they are ready.
The 2021 TEDxTauranga volunteer team. Photo Karlie Morrow 

How you can get involved: TEDxTauranga is a registered charity. The charitable trust board members and event planners are volunteers and are always looking for support in the form of: volunteers, sponsor partnerships. All the money raised goes into producing TEDxTauranga events in order to fulfil the team’s mission: ‘shift perceptions, change the world.’ Get in touch through the website (https://www.tedxtauranga.com/) or Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TEDxTauranga/).


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