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Bledisloe Address

Issue date: 
Tuesday, 6 February 2018
The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, CVO, QSO

Kei aku manuhiri o te rā, tena koutou.

Tēnā tatau i te Rā o Waitangi.

Tēnā tatau i te Tiriti o Waitangi me tona kawenata.

Nau mai, haere mai ki tēnei whare kawana o Tamaki Makarau.

Greetings to you my guests.

Greetings to us all on Waitangi Day

I greet you, acknowledging the Treaty of Waitangi and its covenant.

Welcome to Government House Auckland

Welcome to Government House Auckland – to the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern; to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps; to His Worship the Mayor, the Honourable Phil Goff; and to all our guests from across New Zealand.

David and I are delighted to share our National Day with you all.

On Waitangi Day, New Zealanders remember how this nation began – 178 years ago today – with the signing of a Treaty between assembled rangatira and a representative of Queen Victoria.

We reflect on the unique Treaty partnership formed that day and how it has evolved into the 21st century.

The Governor General’s Waitangi Day speech is called the Bledisloe Address, in honour of Lord Bledisloe, Governor-General between 1930 and 1935.

We honour Lord Bledisloe for raising public awareness about the significance of the Treaty of Waitangi; for his extraordinary foresight and great generosity in purchasing the Treaty House and its grounds from private ownership; and for gifting the property to the people of New Zealand. 

Lord Bledisloe is reported as saying that while he had bought Waitangi to prevent ‘a real danger of the residence being carried off to America by a speculator’, he really wanted ‘to foster the sense of nationhood and to link forever Māori and Pakeha for a common good’.  

Of course, these days Lord Bledisloe is rather better remembered each year when the All Blacks and the Wallabies compete for the Bledisloe Cup. Another of the very many gifts he made during his vice-regal term.

Last year on Waitangi Day, I spoke about the Treaty itself, and the circumstances that led to it being drafted and signed.    

I expressed a hope that more New Zealanders would make themselves acquainted with the Treaty, as well as the historical breaches that followed its signing, and thereby better understand the source of Māori grievances and the need for redress.

A year on, I want to speak about what Te Tiriti means for us today.  Why it continues to have contemporary relevance, 178 years after it was signed.

The Treaty sits at the heart of the Crown-Māori relationship, at the heart of our Government, our public and institutional life, and at the heart of our communities.

The Treaty has been described as providing a set of principles, identified by the Waitangi Tribunal and our courts. These principles, derived from articles in the Treaty, underpin interactions between the Crown and Māori.

They include the principle of partnership;

a duty to act reasonably, honourably and in good faith;

to make informed decisions;

to ensure benefit for both parties;

to actively protect Māori interests; and

to provide redress for past wrongs.

In these principles lie the foundations of our success as a nation. As former Prime Minister Jim Bolger said, honouring the Treaty is about honouring New Zealand.

It is about ensuring that the strength in numbers enjoyed by one partner in the Treaty – what Jim Bolger referred to as the tyranny of the majority – does not prejudice the rights of the other party to the Treaty.

Where there have been past wrongs, the Treaty has provided a pathway for acknowledgement and redress.

The Treaty is the foundation of the contemporary Crown-Māori relationship with regard to natural resources, and our governments have increasingly recognised the relationship between Māori and the environment.

Two recent examples have been legally revolutionary and world-leading: the Deeds of Settlement for Tuhoe and the Whanganui River.

Both are based on te ao Māori, the Māori world view, and give Te Urewera and the Whanganui River rights of their own.

The Māori concept of kaitiakitanga, or guardianship increasingly resonates within the wider community and aligns with our determination to ensure that economic growth is not pursued at the expense of the environment.

The Treaty has been invoked to achieve cultural milestones, including in the status of te reo Māori.

The whakatauki “Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Māori” translates as “the language is the life force of Māori mana”.

It expresses the profound importance of language to culture, arts, expression, identity and wellbeing.

In the 20th century, generations of Māori were punished for speaking their language at school, so it was not surprising that the number of fluent speakers steadily declined.

In 1985, the Waitangi Tribunal found that the Treaty ensured a place for two peoples – but for this promise to be achieved, there needed to be a recognised place for the languages of both partners. 

A series of ground-breaking Government initiatives followed, including the declaration of te reo Māori as an official language of New Zealand; the establishment of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission) and Māori Television; and government support for kura kaupapa and whare wananga.

In each of these milestones, we see Treaty principles providing a foundation for forward progress.

Today, over 19,000 school students are taught the curriculum principally in te reo Māori, and more schools every year are offering te reo Māori as a language subject.

The fact that we do not have enough teachers of te reo Māori to meet the demand is both cause for celebration and concern. 

I hope that more New Zealanders will both welcome and seek out opportunities to learn our nation’s second official language.

It is a journey that I am undertaking.

It is not just a matter of strengthening the future of te reo Māori – though this is of vital importance. Te reo Māori opens a door into understanding and respect of te ao Māori.

As Sir Eddie Durie observed, the foundation of Māori relationships is aroha – love – and ‘inherent in love…is a deep comprehension of another’s point of view’.

This duty to know and understand each other is an enduring legacy of Te Tiriti. The appointment of Minister for Crown/Māori relations is the latest step in that process.

With genuine listening and understanding, and a willingness to be open to different ways of doing things, New Zealanders will continue to make progress in our Treaty partnership, not only in the formal relationship that exists between the Crown and Māori, but also in our schools, workplaces, and communities.

In my role as Governor-General, and as the most recent successor to one of the original signatories, I recognise a particular responsibility to honour the mana of Te Tiriti, and to do what I can to broaden appreciation of the role that our nation’s unique founding document plays in Aotearoa/New Zealand – now and in the years ahead.  

It is a responsibility that I welcome and embrace.

I will finish with this whakatauki, "E tata a runga, e roa a raro". Hoake tatau me te humarire, me te manawanui.

This whakatauki implies that the journey may be long, but if we proceed with humility and forebearance, the signs for progress are good.

Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.

Last updated: 
Tuesday, 6 February 2018

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