Emerging Leaders Dinner

The Governor-General's address to guests attending the Emerging Leaders Dinner at Government House in Auckland
3 Dec 2010

For more photos, click here. 

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).
To the distinguished guests here this evening. I trust that that description covers all those present satisfactorily.

It is with great pleasure that my wife Susan and I welcome you all to Government House Auckland for this dinner.

At the outset, I would like to bring to our collective mind the lives of the 29 men that were lost following the explosions a fortnight ago at Pike River Mine.  Yesterday’s memorial service in Greymouth in which Susan and I played a small role, was a moving tribute to their memory and to the community’s grief.

I would like to speak to you all briefly about why you are here, and the importance of your success and contribution to New Zealand.

In receiving your invitation to attend what is described on the card itself only as ‘a dinner’, your thoughts may have turned to the occasion’s purpose.

Ahead of this dinner, you will have received too, an outline of the company in which you find yourself. You will, in reading the guest list, have recognised the calibre of your neighbours and their wide-ranging skills and various careers.

Each person present tonight is here on their own merit.  Each person here has achieved something significant and, in particular, has displayed leadership.

The diversity of those here this evening is well demonstrated by listing some of the general categories represented.  These include contributions to the arts, building and construction, business, community, education, engineering, farming, fashion design, health, local and central government, the New Zealand Defence Force, music, science, and sport.

Each of you has played an important role in your field of expertise, in your community, and in the wider New Zealand society.

Our country’s international reputation as an innovative and progressive nation is a reflection of those who make a contribution to its success.

In my 2010 Governor-General New Year message, I noted that this year marked two things - the 170th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, which established New Zealand as a modern nation, and the 65th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

These are two very contrasting anniversaries - one that speaks of partnership and the other of a conflict that claimed the lives of more than 50 million people including many thousands of New Zealanders.

The response of people after World War II was not of despair but of a resounding vote of faith in the future.  People established families and built stronger communities and the businesses and other enterprises to match.

A challenge is then set before us, after a global recession that continues to affect thousands of New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses, to renew two things - that spirit of partnership and the spirit of hope that came to characterise the time after the Second World War.

Each one of you will have experienced challenges and adversity on your journey to date.  You will have overcome some of those challenges and some adversity may have taught you valuable lessons. 

The legendary yachtsman and adventurer, Peter Blake, in a log entry on the 6th of February 2001 on his expedition to Antarctica before his tragic death in December 2001, made an important point.  Musing on the idea and practice of ‘making a difference’, particularly in relation to the environment, Sir Peter wrote:  “It is very necessary that their hearts are behind “making a difference”, but often there will be constraints on them that are difficult to overcome. It is now going to be more and more up to individuals who will accept nothing less. That is our role – to encourage people to want to make a difference.”

Tomorrow's leaders, those who will make a difference, need the skills, confidence and support to take on the mantle of community leadership. 

Identifying and encouraging these leaders, whether they emerge in public positions, through voluntary service to others, in sport, education or business, is an important part of ensuring this country’s continued social cohesion, prosperity and unity.  These are the things that will ensure that New Zealand has a bright future.

The purpose of this evening is, then, to recognise and encourage a new generation of leaders who already have and who will continue to contribute to the prosperity of New Zealand and its people.

In reflecting on New Zealand society as a whole, I have an anxiety that as a result of the complexity of modern living, our ability to make meaning out of the values that once held us all together, may be under threat.  New Zealand needs leaders – people who can see the big picture, people who can not just articulate our values but who exemplify them, and live them.

In that respect, leadership may be a heavy mantle to take on.  It is one which is not usually asked for, but for which skills are developed over the course of a life.  Possessing all the qualities of good leadership together with emphasising your own set of personal values and the things you value in others contnues to be of crucial importance.

There is an apposite Maori proverb that puts this well.  In Maori it says:  “Ma mua ka kite a muri, ma muri ka Ora a mua.”  This in English translates to saying “Those who lead, give sight to those who follow; those behind, give life to those ahead”.

In closing, I wish to extend congratulations and thanks to each person in this room – not only for your achievements to date, but also for the example you set for those that look up to you.

And on that note of celebration and in anticipation of your continued contribution to this wonderful country, 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.

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