Manus Island refugee Behrouz Boochani has arrived in Christchurch this morning, presented with a traditional pounamu necklace during his welcome from Christchurch's mayor and Ngāi Tahu.
Mayor Lianne Dalziel gifted Boochani - a journalist and author - with the toanga and told him "it's an incredible honour and a privilege" after he was welcomed with a karanga.
Last night Boochani arrived in Auckland after having fled authorities in Iran for over six and a half years. He will speak for the first time in person as a free man at WORD Christchurch next week.
For most of the past six years, Boochani had been held in Australian detention centres - Christmas Island at first, then Manus Island having been picked up by the Australian Navy in the sea between Australia and Indonesia. He was held without trial or any criminal record.
But, while being held Boochani began to write. His award-winning book, No Friends but the Mountains, which was written entirely from WhatsApp messages and then translated to English, came from some of his words during that time.
This morning, he landed in Christchurch - where he arrived alongside Greens MP Golriz Ghahraman and WORD Christchurch's Rachael King. He's been granted a visitor visa to appear at a special WORD Christchurch event next week where he will speak about his book.
"The purpose of coming is the WORD event and it's an opportunity for him, in person, to tell his story," mayor Dalziel told TVNZ1's Breakfast from Christchurch Airport this morning ahead of his arrival.
"It hasn't happened anywhere in the world. Certainly he has appeared in the sort of TedX events but only by remote means.
"This is the first time, so Christchurch New Zealand, Ōtautahi Christchurch, will be first place in the world where he will stand and tell his story in freedom and that is so powerful."
Ms Dalziel thanked organisers of WORD, especially Ms King, who worked to get Ms Boochani to come to the event.
"We are so proud of our WORD festival in Christchurch, it means so much to us, and this is really just the peak, the pinnacle of what has been achieved over many, many years of that festival running," she said.
Ms Dalziel also said it was "an extraordinary day", and the weather in Christchurch was doing its part to put on a good welcome for Mr Boochani.