e ngā kaiawhina o ngā ropu maha me ngā tini kaupapa
Nōu te aro māngai, mo Aotearoa.
Tēnā koutou katoa.
Nau mai haere mai ki Te Whare Kawana.
I am delighted to welcome you all to Government House – and so grateful that fortune is shining on us so we can meet face-to-face today.
Over the past year COVID-19 has challenged us in ways we couldn’t have imagined. And we know that these challenges will not go away any time soon. But the challenges faced by our environment are even more enduring. There is no miracle vaccine to save our planet.
St Francis of Assisi said the best way to approach a significant challenge was to start by doing what was necessary – then to move on to what was possible – and at that point, he believed we would find ourselves achieving the impossible.
It’s an inspiring sentiment, but when it comes to the environment – when the solutions require global cooperation and transformation on a scale not seen since the United Nations was established after the Second World War, it can feel like that first step – doing what is necessary – is in fact doing the impossible.
Sir Rob Fenwick wasn’t going to let those kinds of thoughts stop him.
He understood that the first step for transformation in Aotearoa was to get cross-sector support, to bring all our collective expertise and intellect – and our hearts and souls – to the task of restoring the wellbeing of our natural capital and creating a sustainable future. He saw this as the best way to fulfil our responsibilities as global citizens.
And he achieved that first goal in his vision for the future. The Aotearoa Circle is his legacy.
I note that it’s not a triangle, pyramid, rectangle or star.
Just as every part of a circle is equi-distant from the centre, so too are members of the Aotearoa Circle. It’s a circle of inclusion, respecting and valuing the different talents and perspectives represented around the table.
Thank you all for agreeing to be part of this vital mahi.
When Sir Rob invited me to become Patron of the Circle, I didn’t need any persuading and it has been a great privilege to support its work.
I am not surprised that so many organisations have been inspired to join.
It reflects a general groundswell for change in our communities, arising from an understanding that action is required now, and cannot be parked for future generations to tackle.
Our current experiences with COVID-19 have highlighted our responsibilities as global citizens and shown how interconnected our world is.
Our recent experiences have reinforced a common thread throughout our history – where because we are a relatively new nation, with a small population, we can be nimble and adapt more easily than many other nations. Positive change has been achieved quickly when we have set our minds to it.
And the Aotearoa Circle is certainly nimble. I was astonished how promptly the report of the Fenwick Forum was produced last year.
Many of you were contributors to that process. You brought the gifts of your world-view, your knowledge and your expertise to the discussions and recommendations.
Today, we welcome you to bring those gifts again to the table, along with your ability to listen, analyse and synthesise ideas.
Your feedback will be listened to and valued.
I have no doubt you are already fulfilling another role for the Aotearoa Circle –as proud ambassadors for its work.
You have the power to be influencers for discussion and positive change with your friends, whanau, communities, and workplaces.
Thank you for giving up your time to be part of the next step on the Aotearoa Circle’s mission to make the possible happen, and the impossible achievable.
I know your time is a precious commodity, and there is much to get through today, but I’ll finish with this whakatauki:
Toitū te marae a Tāne
Toitū te marae a Tangaroa
Toitū te tangata.
Protect and strengthen the land and sea, and they will protect and strengthen the people.