May 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 afternoon (Sign)
May I specifically greet you: Your Worship Pat McManus, Mayor of Buller District and your fellow councillors; Gary Murphy, Chief Executive of the Buller District Council and your staff;; Distinguished Guests otherwise; Ladies and Gentlemen.
Thank you for inviting me to this reception to mark my visit to the West Coast of the South Island. On an occasion such as this, my wife Susan would usually be with me. However, she is in Wellington with our daughter Anya, whose partner recently gave birth to our first grand-daughter, Lola.
She is the second grandchild we have been blessed with in the space of six weeks-our other daughter Tara, who lives in London, gave birth to our first grandson, Joshua, in January.
I would like take this opportunity to speak briefly about the significance of my visit.
As Governor-General, I have three key roles. I undertake constitutional duties on behalf of the Head of State, such as giving Royal Assent to laws passed by the House of Representatives, signing regulations presented to me at Executive Council and appointing the Prime Minister after an election.
There are also important ceremonial duties, such as opening Parliament and representing all New Zealanders at key events such as Waitangi Day and ANZAC Day. At the request of the Government, I sometimes travel overseas representing New Zealand and New Zealand interests abroad.
But the role that takes up most of mine and Susan's time is the community leadership role. And it is that role that has brought me to here to the West Coast this week. So far, we have visited the Far North, travelling to Cape Reinga, to the Far South, having visited Stewart Island, and to the Far East-the Chatham Islands that is!
So by visiting the West Coast, we complete the quartet by visiting the Far West-although we have also made a short State Visit to Australia, which some dub the "West Island" of New Zealand!
But seriously, it is an opportunity to see New Zealand and New Zealanders at their best. It brings us into contact with so many New Zealanders, both young and old, from all walks of life. It is an opportunity to learn about the positive and innovative things they are doing in community groups, businesses and the like.
The West Coast, like many of New Zealand's regions, has its own unique character. The former Listener and now Sunday Star-Times columnist, Steve Braunias, wrote of the tremendous friendliness when he visited a small town on the Coast in 2005: "There is a particular quality of friendliness on the West Coast formed by its distance, its seclusion-shut in by the sandless shore of the Tasman and the stern wall of the Alps, with forests, marshes and vast nothingness in between."
I am looking forward to learning more, not only of the region's outstanding environmental and conservation heritage, but particularly the successes of its people.
Getting to know your people includes getting to know more about your young people and your schools, the part that is played by Māori heritage, your historical heritage, your businesses and your community, sporting and voluntary organisations.
We have already visited Karamea Area School this morning and we will visit South Westland Area School later this week. The far north of your region has been described to me as the "nicest and longest cul-de-sac in New Zealand" and I have to agree. We didn't run into any tourists seeking directions to Nelson although I know the locals chuckle about such lost travellers who regularly turn up on their doorsteps.
The historical and cultural heritage of your region will be on display when I officially reopen Reefton's Oddfellows Hall tomorrow and when we are welcomed on to Arahura Pa at Hokitika on Thursday.
Your region's community, sporting and voluntary sector will be on display when we visit Grey Hospital and the Hokitika Craft Gallery Co-operative and attend a dinner hosted by the West Coast Rugby League later this week.
It is difficult not to notice the rugged natural beauty of the West Coast, but our visit also includes meeting Department of Conservation staff at Franz Josef as well as visiting the Okarito Kiwi Project.
And the diversity of businesses varies from Sphagnum Moss distributors, Sutton's Moss in Kaiata, through to Westland Milk Products in Hokitika and the West Coast's iconic Wildfoods Festival. I'm not sure if I'll try the colostrum pikelets, but the fried grasshoppers and roasted bison sounds intriguing!
While I am at the beginning of my visit, my programme suggests a region that retains a positive outlook and is moving forward. I understand, Your Worship, that the Council is soon to open a new sports complex. Such facilities are naturally the result of lengthy and healthy debate, but I am sure they will serve your community well in the future.
As many here will recall, the West Coast has suffered some hard knocks in the past. Sadly, New Zealand and the world are again entering a difficult economic period that will test us all.
But if anything can be learned from the past experiences of the Coast and its people, is that being downcast is no way out of your difficulties.
As we work towards the future, the greatest resource we have is within our own communities. It is within those voluntary, community and sporting groups that we draw the strength to move forward.
The spirit of volunteerism is the glue that holds our society together and it is a reserve we will need to call on in the next couple of years.
There is an apposite Māori proverb that makes this point well. It asks:
He aha te mea nui? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!
Translated it asks: What is the most important thing? It is people! It is people! It is people!
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.