Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen – warm greetings to you all. I’d like to specifically acknowledge:
Jana Rangooni, Board Chair of Paralympics New Zealand
Fiona Allan, Chief Executive and Secretary General of Paralympics New Zealand
Janet Pottinger, Managing Director of the Adecco Group New Zealand
I am delighted to join you all in supporting the work of Paralympics New Zealand, and in celebrating our Para athletes’ outstanding performances in Tokyo, Beijing, and Birmingham.
It was my great privilege to spend a few days at the Birmingham Games in my capacity as chief cheerleader on behalf of New Zealanders back home.
I was thrilled to see Dame Sophie Pascoe’s gold medal-winning performance, I had the pleasure of meeting Jesse Reynolds, and I also saw our Para bowls team in action.
I felt immensely proud of all our athletes for their achievements, as well as such admiration for their determination, work ethic, and talent.
You may be pleased to know that Sir Hugh Robertson, President of the British Olympic Committee, made a point of telling me how impressed he was with the decorum of our athletes and their inclusive attitudes.
That was my impression too – of a team that understood and embraced their role as New Zealand ambassadors, and who did our country proud.
I was also impressed by the coaches and officials, and came to appreciate how much their role extends beyond logistics and training regimes.
They are there to share in celebrations and moments of achievement, as well as to console and boost morale when things don’t go to plan.
This culture of support is reflected in the whakataukī: ‘Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari kē he toa takitini – my success should not be bestowed onto me alone, it was not individual success but the success of a collective.’
Earlier this year, I was in Dubai representing New Zealand at ceremonies following the death of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
I mention this because, when I met the Sheikh’s widow, the conversation quickly turned to horse-riding for people she described as specially abled.
She said something else that absolutely resonates with my own views – that if a country is to move forward, it can only happen when nobody is left behind.
It’s a sentiment that underpins the work of everyone involved in Paralympics New Zealand – and also my own strategic priorities as Governor-General during my term of office.
Our progress rests on the opportunities available to all New Zealanders, in every aspect of our lives – whether it be education, health, or sport.
Our Paralympians demonstrate what is possible when such opportunities are made available, and when there is encouragement and support provided.
I commend and congratulate everyone here tonight, and wish you all a wonderful evening.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.