Waitangi Day address

Speech to mark Waitangi Day, Government House Wellington
6 Feb 2012

Introduction and acknowledgements
Tihe Mauri Ora! Tātou katoa e pae nei, nau mai, haere mai ti tēnei Kāinga, Whare Kāwanatanga, ki te whakanui, te rā o te Tiriti o Waitangi.  Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Government House as we mark the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

I specifically acknowledge: Dr Rt Hon Lockwood Smith, Speaker of the House and Members of Parliament—tēnā koutou; Hon Amy Adams, Minister of Internal Affairs and fellow Ministers of the Crown—tēnā koutou; Your Excellency Anthony Mongalo, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and members of the Corps—tēnā koutou; Your Worship Celia Wade-Brown, Mayor of Wellington—tēnā koe.

Welcome to Government House in Wellington for this Waitangi Day reception.  I welcome people from many different fields and parts of the country—government, judiciary, business, sport, arts and culture, charities, religious groups, education and science.  And a special welcome to those from Christchurch.

Waitangi Day
It is an honour as New Zealand’s Governor-General, representing all New Zealanders and Her Majesty The Queen, to make my first Waitangi Day address. 

Today New Zealanders gather to mark the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi 172 years ago on 6 February 1840. 
It was the day when Māori and Tau-iwi began the process of building a shared relationship.

It was the day that New Zealanders set the pathway to a modern nation.

It was the day when the first representative of Queen Victoria in New Zealand, Captain William Hobson, uttered the immortal words: “He iwi tahi tatou—We are all one people”, as he shook the hand of each of the 40 rangatira after they signed the Treaty.

Waitangi Day represents different things to different people.

It is a day of reflection for some, a time to look back at the tangled roots of our nation’s history, recall our achievements, our triumphs and recommit ourselves to reconciling the challenging times of our history.   

It is a day of debate for others, when some discuss the significance of the Treaty and its evolving principles in the life of a modern and independent democracy.

It is day of family time for many.  Having been in the Bay of Islands yesterday and at festivals in Porirua and central Wellington earlier today, I have seen New Zealanders from all walks of life having fun and taking time to enjoy Waitangi Day.

I have seen people, young and old, families from a multitude of ethnicities and cultural and religious backgrounds enjoying the summer sun, listening to music, playing games, and checking out food and craft stalls.
While Waitangi Day represents different things to different people, it is first and foremost New Zealand’s national day.

As our national day, it is a time when we celebrate all that it means to be a New Zealander and take pride in the things that we have achieved in this beautiful land that we call home.

As our national day, it is a time when we reaffirm our commitment to the shared values that bind us together—compassion, tolerance, a strong sense of community and a Kiwi can-do attitude. 
And it is a time when we look forward with renewed hope for our country’s prospects, confident that the New Zealand we will bequeath to our young people will continue to be a great place to live, to settle and to raise a family. 

Queen’s Diamond Jubilee
The 6th of February has a wider significance that stretches beyond these shores.  When it was signed by William Hobson in the name of Queen Victoria, the Treaty of Waitangi incorporated New Zealand was incorporated into a global empire where, it was once said, the sun would never set.

On that same day, 112 years later in 1952, Queen Victoria’s great-great granddaughter, Elizabeth II became our Queen and Head of State.

So, as we celebrate our national day, we also mark the beginning of the celebrations to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth’s reign as Queen of New Zealand.

Her Majesty has visited our shores 10 times as Queen, most recently in 2002, meeting people from all walks of life and from all parts of the country.   She was the first reigning monarch to open the New Zealand Parliament, and made her first Christmas broadcast from Government House in Auckland in 1953.  

Her Majesty continues to be held in the highest esteem for her unfailing dedication to her official duties, her work in promoting charities and royal patronages, and as Head of the Commonwealth.  And I can attest from personal experience, as have Governors-General before me, of her keen interest in, and knowledge of, New Zealand and its people, whom she continues to hold in high regard.

When Her Majesty became our Queen in 1952, the sun was setting on the British Empire and New Zealand was an independent realm.

In the intervening 60 years New Zealand has continued to change.  In 1952, God Save the Queen, was our national anthem.  Today most New Zealanders would also acknowledge God Defend New Zealand as our national anthem.  First performed 136 years ago,  it has been our national song since 1940 and co-equal national anthem since 1977.  Today we sing it in both Māori and English.

Our world focus has moved from Britain and Europe to Asia and the Pacific as we have charted an independent course in international relations and trade. 

And the office of Governor-General, once the preserve of the British aristocracy, many of whom were military officers, has for 40 years been occupied by New Zealanders from many different backgrounds. 

New New Zealanders
Within New Zealand, our society, economy and government have changed.  We have moved on from the electoral system we inherited from Britain, and we’ve also established our own final court of appeal.

Women increasingly play a greater role, and 110 years after New Zealand became the first country to grant women the right to vote, our four highest constitutional offices were held by women. 

One of the most striking changes has been the transformation of New Zealand into a thoroughly cosmopolitan nation. People from the Pacific, Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe have settled here, bringing with them many musical, artistic, linguistic, culinary and cultural influences that continue to shape the New Zealand of today. 

Some made the decision to immigrate, while others have been refugees, forced to flee the land of their birth.   All of them have settled in New Zealand, seeking a better life for themselves and their families.

Seeking a better life is what brought all New Zealanders to this land.  As one of the last places to be inhabited by humans, we are all immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, whether we came here by canoe, sailing ship, steamer or by aeroplane. 

In my case, on one side of my family I am descended from those who came here on Te Arawa and Tākitimu waka about 1000 years ago, and on the other from British settlers who arrived on the sailing ship, Katherine Stewart Forbes in 1841.

And so, in recognising the on-going contribution of new New Zealanders to our nation, earlier this afternoon I hosted a ceremony at Government House where 24 people, from 19 countries, became New Zealand’s newest citizens.

They are from countries as far afield as Somalia, South Africa, Thailand, the USA, Iran, Britain, Ireland, Gambia, the Netherlands, India, China, Mexico and Bulgaria, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Japan, Thailand, Samoa and Australia.

By becoming citizens, they have made a significant step in the journey of making New Zealand their homeland. By becoming citizens, they now share a unique bond with other New Zealanders, and a bond that links us all as one nation.

As the Māori proverb notes: “Tuitui tangata, tuitui korowai”—bringing people together is like weaving a cloak.  Weaving korowai, a symbol of mana and respect, takes time and great skill as does building enduring relationships.   Together we will build a stronger, independent country for the benefit of us all.  Our futures are now woven together. 

To conclude, it seems fitting that on Waitangi Day, as we celebrate our national day, I ask everyone to join me in welcoming our newest citizens to our New Zealand family.

And before inviting them to come up and receive a kōuka tree seedling to mark the occasion, I will close by repeating second English verse of God Defend New Zealand, which seems particularly appropriate.

Men of every creed and race,
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place,
God defend our free land.
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our state,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.

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