I begin by greeting everyone in the languages of the realm of New Zealand, in English, Māori, Cook Island Māori, Niuean, Tokelauan and New Zealand Sign Language. Greetings, Kia Ora, Kia Orana, Fakalofa Lahi Atu, Taloha Ni and as it is the evening (Sign)
I then specifically greet you: Michael Crawford, Consul-General of Australia and Dean of the Auckland Consular Corps and fellow members and life members of the Consular Corps; Your Excellency Francis Etienne, Ambassador of France to New Zealand; Warwick Hawker from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Auckland Office; Distinguished Guests otherwise; Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is with great pleasure that my wife Susan and I welcome you all to Government House in Auckland for this reception for the Auckland Consular Corps.
This gathering was meant to have been held here on 2 December but it had to be postponed because of the need to attend the memorial service for those who tragically lost their lives in the Pike River Mine Disaster.
Two weeks on it remains a sad time, particularly for the families, whose loved ones remain trapped within the mine. I am sure people will join me in hoping, especially with Christmas fast approaching, that bodies may be recovered in the near future, so that they can be laid to rest.
I would like to take an opportunity to speak a little of the role and value of the consular corps and particularly in the context of this city.
Auckland is the only place in our country that, by international standards, can be regarded a "metropolis." As well as being Superman's fictional home, the word "metropolis" is defined by one dictionary as being: "a large and densely populated urban area; may include several independent administrative districts” and by another as "the principal city of a country or region."
Auckland may not be New Zealand's capital, but it easily meets all these criteria. As home to more than a 1.3 million, it has a highly diverse, dynamic and multicultural population and is our country’s primary centre for business and commerce.
By way of example, more than 70 per cent of visitors New Zealand enter or leave through Auckland International Airport, which handles more than 13 million passengers a year. More than 20 international airlines serve Auckland Airport, which is Australasia’s second busiest international airport, after Sydney.
It is also represented by the newly elected unitary Auckland Council, headed by His Worship Mayor Len Brown. The council is the largest local authority in Australasia, and as a new model for local government in New Zealand, it has been given key responsibilities in the leadership and direction of Auckland.
For these reasons and others I see a growing role for the more than 60 consulates or consulates-general situated here in Auckland. Some are headed by professional diplomats, and many more are staffed by honorary consuls who work on a part-time basis.
As one who grew up in Auckland and lived and worked here until 1995, and in some ways has never left, I have had a great many connections with members of the city’s consular corps.
Consular work often occurs behind the scenes and is not widely recognised or appreciated by the wider community. As a lawyer and judge, the connections were focused on those occasions when foreign nationals appeared before the courts and there was need for them to receive consular assistance.
Later as a trustee of the Asia New Zealand Foundation, I saw another side of the work you undertake and the breadth of service you provide, not only in consular services, but in promoting trade and educational opportunities and relationships. This is particularly so for the full-time consuls-general who often combine that role with work as trade representatives.
In the Governor-General role, I have again appreciated ongoing contacts with members of the Auckland Consular Corps. Susan and I hosted a similar reception here at Government House Auckland in December 2008 and I have met many of you at other events here and elsewhere in Auckland and we have been hosted by you.
The work that consuls and consuls-general undertake for the nations that they represent has been further brought home to me when travelling overseas in the Governor-General role, representing New Zealand interests abroad at the request of the Government.
While each visit is co-ordinated by New Zealand’s ambassador or high commissioner, the work of consuls and consuls-general in places other than the capital city has more than once become readily apparent, particularly in large countries.
As our term in the Governor-General role will come to an end in August next year, this will be the last occasion when we see the consular corps in Auckland as a group. It is accordingly with much pleasure that my wife Susan and I welcome you here to enjoy the hospitality of this House.
Regardless of whether your role is full or part-time, and whether you are a professional diplomat or an honorary consul, your work in representing your countries’ interests to Auckland and to New Zealand is both appreciated and acknowledged.
And on that note I will close in New Zealand’s first language Māori, by offering everyone greetings and wishing you all good health and fortitude in your endeavours. No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, kia ora, kia kaha, tēnā koutou katoa.