Rau rangatira mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa. Distinguished guests, I extend warm greetings to you all.
I specifically acknowledge: Tony Caughey, Chairman of the Young Enterprise Trust; Sir Eion Edgar, Chairman of the Hall of Fame selection panel; the Hon Craig Foss, Minister of Commerce; the Most Rev John Dew, Catholic Archbishop of Wellington; Your Worship Jono Naylor, Mayor of Palmerston North; Ian McKelvie, MP for Rangitikei; and Paul Thompson, Group Executive Editor, Fairfax Media—tēnā koutou katoa.
Can I start by tendering my wife Janine’s sincere apologies – she is unwell this evening. She had been looking forward to being here tonight.
Notwithstanding, I appreciate this opportunity to join you for the Fairfax Media New Zealand Business Hall of Fame dinner tonight. I consider it an honour to participate in the induction of the six newest laureates into the New Zealand Business Hall of Fame.
Before we do that, there are two things for me to do. First of all, as Patron of the Young Enterprise Trust, I want to thank everyone involved in bringing this wonderful event to fruition. Secondly, I want to speak briefly on why I think these awards are so important.
Our economy has taken a bit of a battering recently as it has absorbed the on-going and seemingly never-ending turmoil on the world’s financial markets. Added to that has been the massive devastation wrought on our second largest city, Christchurch, by the series of destructive earthquakes there since September 2010. While our communities and businesses have remained strong, and have responded spiritedly to each new challenge, the constant battering is taking its toll.
The example of the six laureates we honour tonight is an inspiration to other New Zealanders. Their stories are of people who had ideas and dreams; who put those ideas into deeds; and who succeeded, often in the face of difficulty and adversity. Their experiences are evidence that it is committed, hard-working and enterprising people that can make organisations and who have made and can make New Zealand great.
All came from relatively unassuming beginnings. Three were immigrants to New Zealand, and had to overcome the challenges that come with establishing themselves in a new land to build their successful businesses.
Each of them built and grew businesses in difficult times. The businesses Mary Milne and Thomas McCarthy established grew and prospered during the Long Depression of the 1880s and 1890s. Bill Gallagher senior’s company was born in the era of the Great Depression of the 1930s and as the dark clouds of a world-wide war loomed.
More recently, the businesses built by Sir Graeme Douglas, Sir Patrick Higgins and Graeme Lowe have weathered the storms of the oil shocks of the 1970s, the financial collapses of the late 1980s and our current economic difficulties to be leaders in pharmaceuticals, civil engineering contracting and agribusiness respectively.
Tonight, we see evidence that there is a certain enduringness to successful entrepreneurship and enterprise. Bill Gallagher’s award will be received by his sons, John and Sir William Gallagher—himself a Business Hall of Fame laureate. Sir Patrick Higgins has built his success on a drainage and road repair business that his father Dan set up in 1951, and which Sir Patrick joined in 1958 to form the Higgins business.
Enterprise and entrepreneurship sometimes do not get the acknowledgement they warrant. However, while governments can help create an environment in which businesses flourish, ultimately it is individuals with a passion and a desire to succeed, working in and on their businesses, and in new and creative businesses that will drive our economy to grow and prosper.
The passion each laureate had for enterprise, and for being the best in their field, was not for its own sake. The businesses each one created employed many, many New Zealanders. The businesses created by Bill Gallagher, Sir Graeme Douglas, Sir Patrick Higgins and Graeme Lowe continue to employ thousands of New Zealanders today. The wider wealth and prosperity generated by each business investing in their staff and communities is almost impossible to quantify.
That passion has had a lasting and enduring legacy. Success in business was not in an end in itself. Having prospered and done well, each of the laureates assiduously worked for the betterment of the communities that gave them the opportunity to succeed.
Tonight’s awards also recognise philanthropy. The work of Thomas McCarthy is continued through a Trust in his name, that was established on his death in 1912, which has distributed more than $58 million, to support a raft of charitable and educational organisations in the lower North Island.
McCarthy’s example is mirrored by all of the Laureates, because what also unites each of those being inducted tonight is that they were and are passionate people. They were, first and foremost, passionate about enterprise; and also in giving to those in need.
Sir Graeme was knighted in 2010 for his services to philanthropy and athletics. Graeme Lowe has supported numerous charitable and community initiatives in the Hawkes Bay, as has Sir Patrick Higgins in the Manawatu, as have the Gallaghers in the Waikato and the Pacific.
In conclusion, these awards promote things that are important to New Zealanders. They honour six people whose lives speak of passion - for enterprise, for excellence, for people and for their communities. Tonight we celebrate real-life people who put a face to the ideas and notions behind entrepreneurship, enterprise and hard work. Tonight we celebrate their achievements and their service to New Zealand. As we deal with our current economic difficulties, their lives serve as inspirational exemplars of success.
To find out more about the Business Hall of Fame, click here