Rere ana nga roimata o Hine tērā te pae o Te Riri. Huihuia mai tātau katoa tēnei te pae o Maumahara. E nga iwi, kei aku rangatira wahine ma, tāne mā tēnā tātau katoa.
I’d like to specifically acknowledge: His Excellency Ahmad Salem Alwehaib, Ambassador of the State of Kuwait and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps; Hon Andrew Little, Minister of Defence; Hon Gerry Brownlee, Opposition Spokesperson for Defence; Air Marshal Kevin Short, Chief of Defence Force; Leauanae Laulu Mac Leauanae, Chief Executive, Ministry for Culture and Heritage; Colonel (Rtd) Roger Howard, representing the National War Memorial Advisory Counci; Sir Wayne Shelford, National President, Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association; Willie Apiata VC; and representatives of Taranaki Whānui as tangata whenua.
I also wish to extend a very warm welcome to all veterans here with us today, to those commemorating elsewhere, and to your friends and whānau – as well as all those attending this ceremony via the livestream.
Commemorating Armistice Day – or Remembrance Day, as it is often known – has deep significance in many countries around the world, and I’d like to give a special acknowledgement to members of the Diplomatic Corps in attendance today. Finally, I welcome representatives of the Regular Force Cadet Association here with us this morning.
Every year, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we gather at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in commemoration of the signing of the Armistice of 1918.
Here, before the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, we remember the sacrifice of those who lost their lives in the First World War, including some 18,000 New Zealanders. That war and its impact on ensuing generations are etched into our collective memory.
Over the years, Armistice Day has taken on new meaning. It has become a time to reflect on all the events of our military history, and to honour the bravery of all New Zealanders who have gone to war.
On this day, we acknowledge the impacts of war on our own communities, as well as communities worldwide. We think about the hopes and challenges of the present, and the elusive nature of peace.
Looking back a century to the year 1923, we see that the world was slowly moving on from the First World War. While French troops still occupied the Rhineland, the last US troops were leaving Germany, and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk became President of the Republic of Turkey.
But even as the First World War drew into the past, a new threat was taking shape. In Italy, Benito Mussolini was consolidating the power of his Fascist Party. And in November, the Nazi Party, led by Adolf Hitler, came to prominence by launching a failed coup attempt in Munich.
As we now know, the promise of peace was short-lived. The Treaty of Versailles which followed the Armistice, and the League of Nations established in 1920, failed to prevent the onset of the Second World War two decades later.
Every generation hopes theirs will be an era of world peace and stability. Today, sadly, we see yet again the impacts of war and conflict across the globe.
As a nation that aspires to be part of a peaceful and prosperous world, to learn of the suffering of families and communities due to events over which they have no control is deeply saddening.
On this Armistice Day, I find myself reflecting on how important it is to understand the lessons of the past, if we are to properly face the challenges of the present.
In a world where history continues to repeat itself, I believe it is all the more important to act in the interests of peace – to seek and to support a secure and just world, emphasising our commonalities, and maintaining strong bonds of communication and understanding.
I particularly want to acknowledge the brave personnel of our defence forces who work tirelessly to preserve peace and stability beyond our shores, and the New Zealand Police deployed to support policing in the Pacific and Timor-Leste in recent years.
I also acknowledge the many New Zealanders who show us that there are things ordinary people can do to help, whether becoming involved with humanitarian work, or supporting emergency funding appeals. In times like these, I am always heartened by the goodness and care shown by the people of Aotearoa.
On this Armistice Day, as we remember the end of the First World War, let us firm our resolve, wherever we can, to support and to strive for peace, community, and all that is good in life – as proud New Zealanders and members of the global community.
Kia maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou.