What a way to celebrate Rotary and Making A Difference for the 2017/18 year with RotaFEST 18 - A Festival of Rotary!
11-13 May, 2018 - Palmerston North Convention Centre, Palmerston North Square and WildBase Recovery, The Esplanade, Palmerston North
My vision for this years key Rotary District event in our Rotary annual calendar was to move away from promoting a conference as the reason to come but to encompass a range of activities and events that would ensure Rotarian's had an amazing experience and that we connected Rotary with the community!
After welcoming Rotary International Director Elect Raffy Garcia and his wife Minda, their aides for the weekend PDG Rodney and Ange Wong, we welcomed our special guests and introduced many of our Past District Governors with an evening function on Thursday 10th May at the Coachman Hotel and a dinner at Speights Ale House.
The weekend started for our RotaFEST 18 delegates with a Friday afternoon tour of the WildBase Recovery facility that showcased this world class facility.  The facility will ensure that the WildBase Hospital at Massey University Veterinary Science Faculty is able to ensure the native birds and animals that are able to be returned to the wild after injury or sickness.  This will be done through this amazing rehabilitation centre, nestled in the Esplanade, Palmerston North
After a fantastic tour of the facility which is nearing completion, a BBQ dinner was put on by the Rotary Club of Milson. This was a great opportunity for Rotary to see what our involvement in supporting a community asset will create for generations to come.
The evening began with high energy and the opening of the District Conference sessions of RotaFEST 18. Sporting an amazing ring master outfit to Go Wild about Rotary, Master of Ceremonies Lyal Brenton cracked his whip and the greatest Rotary show on earth began!
Our six inbound Rotary International Youth Exchange students accompanied by our three kiwi rebound Rotary International Youth Exchange students went wild with upbeat music and the flag ceremony. With the stage set for a great conference, MC Lyal welcomed the renowned JorJaz Dancers.
These passionate young kids love performing and again welcomed DG Mitchell to dance on stage with a great rendition of "Uptown Funk" with fireman uniforms to set off the lyrics.
The evening saw welcomes to Past Rotary International President Bill and Lorna Boyd, our very special RotaFEST 18 guests. As well as Rotary International Director Elect for our Rotary Zone, Raffy and Minda Garcia, Rotary International District 9910 District Governor David Oliphant and Denise were welcomed from the Rotary Club of Henderson, Auckland.
The evening  speaker sessions were a celebration of WildBase Recovery with WildBase Ambassadors and key drivers for the project PDG Rodney Wong and Scott Bruce.
The Rodney and Scott show provided a fantastic overview of the project from inception, to how to establish the partners to support this vision.
The outcome was the celebration of how such a world class project came together to be built with key support and funding that will see WildBase Hospital at Massey University have a connected WildBase Recovery venue for all treated native birds and animals. Most importantly when complete, the public will be able to visit for free!
The last speaker of the evening was WildBase author and conservationist Janet Hunt. Janet warmed the hearts of the attendees with the story of the rescued kea and more recently the wood pigeon from the Inglewood Golf Course. Both stories told of the rescue and hospitalisation that saw their ailments cured and the successful release to the wild.
Day two started bright and early with New Zealand's Rotarian without compare, Rotary International Past President Bill Boyd, from the Rotary Club of Pakuranga addressing RotaFEST 18 with a view to the next 100 years of Rotary.
Bill in his iconic manner of chatting from the bar stool to the gathered delegates provided the vision of Rotary from a proud history to an evolving world wide community service organisation tat tackled big issues that consume humanity with the elimination of Polio from the world, health, education and literacy, maternal health, water and sanitation, economic development as well aspeace and conflict resolution. Bill left all with a sense of purpose for Rotary for the next 100 years as we are about to celebrate 100 years of Rotary in New Zealand in 2021.
Polio survivor and Afghanistan refugee Karim Rostami shared his power of the human spirit with his extraordinary tale of survival from being struck down as a child with polio in his home country and being told he would not walk again, to migrating to New Zealand, setting up a successful cafe and delicatessen business, and most amazingly taking on long distance swimming. Having now swam from Devonport to Auckland and Waiheke Island to Auckland, his next big challenge is the Alcatraz swim in San Francisco harbour. He is not so worried about the cold, but the sharks!! A truly inspiring human with a huge heart and passion for life.
Fresh from attending the Rotary Presidential Peace Building Conference in Sydney, Tonga Karena, took us on a journey in time to recognise the challenges of peace in our time. Tonga's academic studies at Otago University coupled to his passion for history and ensuring peace is foremost in our minds delivered a powerful presentation that grabbed hearts and minds alike to consider how Rotary and our people can lead the world in creating a world full of peace.
We were extremely privileged to have Rotary International Director Rafael (Raffy) Garcia III address our RotaFEST 18 delegates on the vision of Rotary for the coming years and looking at our pressure points in membership and remaining relevant to our communities. Raffy made reference to RI President Elect Barry Rassin and his vision to create Rotaract Clubs with the view of investing an creating Rotary Clubs of the future. Raffy was warm in his praise for Rotary in New Zealand and the challenge of redistricting to shape our Rotary organisation for the future years.
Looking at our youth and future Rotary opportunities, two future leaders of Rotary shone out with the presentation by the Chair of the Satellite Club of the Rotary Club of Stratford Daniel Stieller and RYPEN attendee Hannah Brill. Daniel's story of attending RYLA on 2017, caused an opportunity to be formed in Rotary Club of Stratford President Barrie Smith's mind. Eight months later the charter of the Satellite Club of the Rotary Club of Stratford occurred with 15 young members of the community starting a fresh Rotary movement in Taranaki.
Hannah Brill spoke of her experiences at Vertical Horizons, the home of the Rotary Youth Program of ENrichment (RYPEN) last May and the impact the program has had on her. Hannah is now heading to Victoria University and sees opportunity to join up the Rotaract Club of Wellington, based out of Victoria University.
District Club Development and Membership Chair Tony Heyward presented with clear purpose and a clear message - we need to actively manage our membership and future Rotary Club engagement with the community, or we won't survive. Tony outlined the membership trends and history that could point to our future if we do nothing. But light on the horizon points to engaging with Interact Clubs, Rotaract Clubs, Satellite Clubs, new Rotary Clubs that are relevant to their members and the community - as well as energising and maintaining our 54 Rotary Clubs of the District. Tony will be presenting at the Australia and New Zealand Rotary Conference in Hobart in September, such is the power of his Club development and membership presentation and message. Well done Tony!!
DG Mitchell Brown shared a case study on disaster and emergency management that occurred with a tornado that recently went through National Park. Fire and Emergency New Zealand's' Urban Search And Rescue team were dispatched and used state of the art field assessment tools to paint the picture for the local council and community representatives. The question was then put as to what ids Rotary's role in a disaster or emergency? From a single dwelling, a street, a suburb, a community, a Region or a country - what is a our scale-able approach to offering appropriate support to these events. More t come on this as DG Mitch prepares discussion papers and a project plan for Rotary International to consider.
Local Building Clever Companies champion Dave Craig brought business innovation and start up company prospects to RotaFEST 18. Discussing how the BCC acts as a business incubator with angel investors providing support for business innovation. Dave was also instrumental in supporting the Food Trucks, which featured as the lunch time food suppliers for RotaFEST 18 in the PN Square.
The conference sessions wrapped up with a joint presentation by Lt. Col. (Ret.) Joe Hollander and Steve Parsons who have been the drivers behind the Poppy Places Trust. This project that started in Palmerston North commemorates the street names that have links to history and World War 1. Linked to a website that shares a growing list of poppy places that are having their street names explained with research and documentation about their place in war history which is now located on the Poppy Place website.