Rau rangatira mā, e nga tamariki o tēnei kura, e huihui nei,
tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou,
kia ora tātou katoa.
Distinguished guests and students of the school who are gathered here, greetings to you all.
Principal Kent Favel, staff and students of St Mark’s Church School, families and alumni – thank you for inviting David and me to your Founders Day, marking one hundred years to the day since the School was officially opened.
St Mark’s and Government House have a long-established connection as neighbours.
On the 3rd of July 1920, the Governor-General, Lord Liverpool and Lady Liverpool, attended a ceremony on this very site, where they were farewelled by the students and staff of St Mark’s, as they prepared to leave Government House for England, at the end of their term.
According to the New Zealand Times newspaper, the school’s first pupil, Hilda Clift, handed each of Their Excellencies a small token of remembrance to take with them. The newspaper did not record what the gifts were.
Lord Liverpool talked to the children about their school crest and its connection to St Mark and to the city of Venice, and urged the children to follow St Mark’s example by doing their duty well and thoroughly.
He finished his speech by giving all of the children at St Marks a half-day holiday! Sadly, Governors-General aren’t allowed to do that anymore, so I can’t follow Lord Liverpool’s example and grant you all a holiday!
It is a wonderful achievement that your school has been here, providing a first class education to Wellington children for 100 years. It is an important milestone and a tribute to the hard work and dedication of generations of teachers, administrators, students and their parents.
I certainly recognise the importance of a good primary school education. My parents were both primary school teachers, and the first schools I attended were in small country towns of in the middle of the North Island that none of you will have heard of – Te Akau and then Minginui.
In fact I began attending primary school when I was six weeks old, though to begin with my involvement in class was limited to being in a cot at the back of the class room, as my Mother was the teacher. By the time I had finished year 8, I had actually been attending school for over 12 years! It was fun, but don’t think it gave me any particular head start on my studies.
When school children come to Government House these days, they often ask me whether I have any advice for them. And I usually say that you should be prepared to give new things a go, even if they seem too difficult or scary. It is only by trying new challenges that you find out what you enjoy and what you are good at. You’ll also learn more about the opportunities ahead of you. You won’t always succeed, but sometimes you will surprise yourself. If you don’t try, you’ll never know if you can do it.
Taking advantage of opportunities is really important. But it certainly helps to have a supportive environment to learn the skills you need. Here at St Mark’s you are fortunate to receive a top quality education, as have the many children that have preceded you over the past 100 years.
We are very pleased to have St Marks as our neighbour and we hope that your students will continue coming to visit us at Government House.
I say this because I think it is important for New Zealand children to learn how our country is governed and how governments are formed.
Currently at Government House we are preparing for events relating to the general election to select our members of parliament. The Governor General has an important part to play in this process.
As part of my role as Governor-General, I officially closed Parliament last month and signed a document called a Writ to authorize the holding of the General election on 23rd of September.
After the election, it is my duty to swear in as Prime-Minister the leader of whichever political party is able to demonstrate clearly they have the support of a majority of the newly elected members of Parliament.
There will then be a formal ceremony at which I will officially open parliament for the new term of three years.
Another role I have is presenting honours and awards to New Zealanders who have achieved great things, who have worked hard in their communities, or served their country in some special way. In doing so I represent Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen of New Zealand.
I hold these honours ceremonies or investitures, twice a year to award the New Years Honours and the Queen’s Birthday Honours. They are always wonderful occasions where we recognise and celebrate the achievements of some very special New Zealanders.
Among those to receive a Queens Birthday honour this year was a former St Mark’s student, Mark Hadlow, who I understand was the Master of Ceremonies at your dinner on Saturday night. Mark was made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to acting.
The Governor-General also holds state welcomes for important visitors such as members of our Royal family and Heads of foreign countries. Over the last 100 years, students from St Mark’s have come up to Government House on many occasions to help the Governor General welcome these Official welcomes. I look forward to continuing this tradition by inviting St Mark’s students to join us at future ceremonies.
Thank you again for inviting us to your celebrations. I am sure it has been a terrific weekend of reminiscing, and remembering what has made St Mark’s such a special place for so many people.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa, and I wish St Mark’s all the very best for the school’s second hundred years.