To Stuart Gray, President of the Newmarket Probus Club, to Corrine Clark , the liaison person for this event, to members of the Newmarket Probus Club and to Distinguished Guests; tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa a warm Auckland good morning to you all.
Thank you for inviting me here today to speak to you all about my role in relation to the role of the Governor-General.
When asked to take on this five year term there was much to consider. There were significant changes to make personally and sacrifices, like the change from living a private life, to living a very public life and the loss of spontaneity.
When Anand was asked to take on the role, we decided that we should do things together as much as possible. We believe that this approach has worked well for us not only in supporting each other, but also being able to both share in meeting the many wonderful people that make up our great country, New Zealand. In reality the role of the spouse is limited, as I will explain
We are now entering the final year of the Term. The position of the Governor-General is often broken down into three main areas known as the three ‘C s’; constitutional, ceremonial, and community.
Constitutional requirements of the Governor-General are attendance at meetings of the Executive Council every week on a Monday afternoon and working meetings with individual Ministers. This role, which Anand does, is broadly called constitutional and his legal and ombudsman background has equipped him well for it.
Dame Catherine Tizard described it as the ‘crown and anchor’ and certainly the Governor-General is the Queen’s Representative in New Zealand. Constitutional things the Queen would otherwise do are open Parliament following a general election, dissolve Parliament at the end of its term, start the electoral process by issuing writs for its conduct, appoint ministers, judges, military officers and diplomats and attend meetings of the Executive Council and assent to legislation.
Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh have many warm memories of New Zealand. We have had the honour of twice having lunch with the Queen and Duke and were heartened by their insights and genuine interest. We have also had visits by Prince Edward, Prince Andrew, Princess Anne, Prince William and Prince Charles at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi recently.
The second ‘C’ is the ceremonial aspect of the role of Governor-General who is the main player. Ceremonial occasions can be either here or overseas. We are almost always somewhere in New Zealand each year for Anzac Day, Armistice Day, Commonwealth Day and Waitangi Day. We attend these events trying hard to connect with those in charge, many of whom we have now met several times. Ceremonial events can occur overseas and in 2009, with New Zealand being the host nation for the ANZAC commemorations at Gallipoli, we had the privilege of leading the New Zealand delegation to Turkey. At the events at each of the battle sites Anand laid wreaths and he gave speeches at Anzac Cove and at Chunuk Bair. After Gallipoli we went to Ankara for the formal State visit to Turkey and there were meetings with the President and Prime Minister. For these trips, I try to brief myself thoroughly to ease conversations with local people bearing in mind that in the conservative levels of some countries, women are more discrete.
Pacific visits have included those to the New Zealand territory of Tokelau and the self-governing States of Niue and the Cook Islands. There have been state visits to the independent countries of Samoa, Tonga, Timor-Leste, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea which are all significant to New Zealand. India, Canada, Australia, Mongolia and Singapore are other countries to which we have made formal visits. Three weeks ago on the first State Visit to Brunei Darussalam, another Muslim country, we met with the Sultan of Brunei and his wife.
Foreign heads of state and royalty come to our country regularly as well and the Government Houses in Wellington and Auckland perform an important focus for these visits. When Government House Wellington is back in use, these visits will be enhanced by the possibility of offering fine accommodation for the high level visitors and spectacular state welcomes.
As I mentioned earlier, last month Anand and I represented the New Zealand Government at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. There to support the more than 300-strong team of kiwi athletes competing. We were also there to show New Zealand’s support for India in hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Although it received a great deal of international negative press before the Games started, our experience was of a safe, well-organised and very much enjoyed Games.
The community aspect of the Governor-General role is the one that takes up most of what I do. It is also the aspect of the role to which I contribute. We make ourselves available as freely as we can to support significant events in the community and these can occur all over the country - on weekends as well as weekdays and at any time of day. Each week we are part of a team that decides which events can be fitted in and we hope to meet many New Zealanders in this way
The joint approach Anand and I strive for helps us to promote the role. We visit almost every corner of New Zealand and have got to know many involved with local bodies, the rural sector, business and groups representing children, sport, and volunteers.
We are helped by Government House staff who facilitate everything we do in the name of the Governor-General. The household staff support us in personal ways and we have no parking worries or airport hassles. These things increase the capacity of the Governor-General. My efforts are towards attending more events, extending the role and including some things that interest me like children, protection of the environment and volunteers.
Traditionally each Governor-General takes on patronages and, in addition, I have become patron of 18 organisations as the Governor-General’s wife, and Anand and I both also share joint patronage for eight organisations. With advice, a review of patronages was undertaken at the beginning of the term and the number reduced so that we can better participate with those we hold. We make a priority of supporting those organisations, sometimes attending or hosting events at Government House.
Within all of this busy-ness, I am highlighting three ‘themes’. They are broadly children, protection of the environment and volunteers - and I make a constant effort to look at opportunities to promote them. I believe that the wife of the Governor-General should take a positive view on things.
The refurbishing of the Government House in Wellington is nearing completion and it will be a change back to normality when it reopens next autumn.
The House celebrated its centenary on 1 October this year and in the refurbished ballroom in what we call “Government House proper” we hosted a reception in which Anand unveiled a centennial plaque which will be mounted at the front of the House on its completion. The House was still a construction site at the time, but it was lovely to be able to give the people attending a little sneak peek.
Expectations are that we will be very busy after the opening with so many New Zealanders wanting to see how it has changed. We are both keen to encourage people to see it once it re-opens.
Through my role I have seen a great deal about New Zealanders that is very positive. While we all watch the news and see the down side of our country, it has been heartening to see that our country’s upside far overtakes the negatives. If New Zealand could hold up a mirror, it would see a reflection of a country that is full of talented and remarkable people, who value community, family, and individuals.
It is a privilege to be in this role to support the Governor-General who represents you and New Zealand both within our country and overseas.
Thank you for your interest in what I do. Anand, as Governor-General, plays a vital role in ensuring a safe, stable government at all times and, as a person of Indian and Pacific background, represents a new aspect of who we are, while being a true New Zealander.
No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, kia ora, kia kaha, tēnā koutou katoa