E nga rau rangatira ma e huihui mai I tenei ra, tena koutou katoa.
It is a privilege to join you at today’s virtual hui. I look forward to the time when I can host such a gathering at Government House Wellington or Auckland, and meet have a chance to meet you all in person.
First, on behalf of my fellow New Zealanders, I thank you for the vital work you do as Aotearoa Circle – in addition to your day jobs – and I congratulate you for keeping on track with your programmes of work, despite the pandemic.
I am grateful for your unwavering commitment to conserving our country’s natural capital and to providing a sustainable and prosperous future for our tamariki and rangatahi.
Your kaupapa resonates with my priorities as Governor-General: in promoting both kaitiakitanga of our natural world, and a more inclusive society – where manaakitanga is extended to all who have chosen to make Aotearoa New Zealand their home.
With my background in academia, working in health, public policy and research, I am convinced of the need to champion education and expert knowledge. We know that too many New Zealanders are not accessing reliable information, and we need to encourage critical thinking, and informed, inclusive decision-making.
Your “Year in Review” gives me great grounds for optimism about what can be achieved when different sectors have the opportunity to speak to each other, and to find workable solutions for apparently intractable problems.
I wish you every success with the next stage, as you put your recommendations into action with others.
I am no stranger to working groups – having chaired a few – and I know how challenging it can be to accommodate different perspectives.
I also know that the moral and intellectual integrity of the process demands that those diverse perspectives are not only represented, but also duly considered.
This is the only way to arrive at robust conclusions and recommendations that will be broadly accepted and acted upon.
At a time when our social fabric is under considerable stress, I appreciate the Aotearoa Circle’s model of what can be achieved when we search for commonalities, rather than divisions, in our quest to achieve public good.
It shows what is possible when civil society recognises our obligations to act in ways that are informed, inclusive and respectful.
Sir Rob Fenwick chose well when he alighted on the model of a circle: it’s a space that permits and fosters dialogue, collaboration and consensus.
The Aotearoa Circle has provided a space for complex conversations across sectors. That is a gift that I suggest could extend beyond your current remit to the consideration of other pressing issues at both the national and the community level.
In our desire for a cohesive society, we need such spaces as this for dialogue, where individuals and interest groups can feel a greater sense of belonging and inclusion, and, hopefully, develop a deeper respect for civil and human rights.
I won’t hold you up any further from the important business of the day, except to say how pleased I am to see such expertise and experience represented at this hui, aimed at addressing the existential challenges of our times.
In a few short years, you have shown what momentum can be achieved in the quest for change.
Like you, I am convinced that we have what it takes to work together to do things better, and, over the next four and a half years, I will do what I can to contribute to that process.