He tui, he kiwi, he kahu, he piwakawaka – nga manu o te ngahere i Te Wao Nui A Tane
Nga hua o te moana, nga awa, nga maunga hoki o nga mea miharo o te Ao!
I am honoured to be appointed the 22nd Governor-General of Aotearoa New Zealand, and grateful for the opportunity to serve my country in this unique and privileged way.
On behalf of all New Zealanders, I thank Dame Patsy and Sir David for their service over these past five years. Richard and I thank them too for their generosity and graciousness during this recent period of transition.
We are living through a period of immense uncertainty and anxiety, and I wish to acknowledge those in Auckland, and around the country, who continue to face the disruptions caused by COVID-19.
I know the challenges we’re facing can often feel bewildering and overwhelming – but we’ve shown what is possible when we choose to be guided by wisdom, courage, and a sense of care for one another.
Our responsibility as citizens has never been more important – when our individual decisions and actions can have such an impact on the wellbeing of others.
As Governor-General, I will focus on doing what I can to strengthen our communities in meeting these challenges of our time.
Communities develop resilience when people feel connected; a sense of belonging; a place to stand.
I will connect with new migrants and former refugees, and celebrate the diverse cultures and religions gifted to our nation by all those who have chosen to make New Zealand their home.
I will reach out to those marginalised in our society, whether because of disability, homelessness, discrimination, addiction, or mental health issues.
I will meet and acknowledge the unsung heroes in our communities – people who devote time and energy to support youth, sport, marae, service groups, cultural activities, and local amenities – without any expectation of recognition or acclaim.
I will thank the good people who work to clean up our rivers, lakes, beaches and oceans; eradicate pests and predators; and restore ecosystems that sustain our precious flora and fauna. Our descendants will be grateful for their efforts to protect our precious environment.
I will be a Governor-General for all New Zealanders, and also for our extended whānau in the Realm of New Zealand – Niue, the Cook Islands, and Tokelau.
I will seek opportunities to interact with children wherever and whenever I can. I will listen to their hopes and dreams, and encourage them to pursue their passions. And I will support organisations dedicated to contributing to their physical, social, and cultural wellbeing. For when children are allowed to fulfil their potential and lead full and happy lives, the benefits resonate across communities and through generations.
My background in academia and the public sector have led me to prize evidence-based thinking.
It has never been more important to critically evaluate the constant flood of information across our screens – and to value the ability of expert communicators, who can help to alleviate our uncertainties and fears.
COVID-19 has highlighted the vital importance of research and expertise to our understanding of events as they unfold, the options available to us, and their possible consequences.
I will seek ways to acknowledge and encourage the work of people advancing their fields of knowledge, to the benefit of Aotearoa and the wider world.
These things I will do with the support of my husband, Richard, and our whānau.
I am honoured to serve as the representative of our Head of State, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who will next year celebrate her Platinum Jubilee, and who for 70 years has remained a true pillar of service, humility, and grace.
A key chapter of our story as a nation began when my earliest predecessor, William Hobson, forged a partnership between the British Crown and rangatira of hapu and iwi in 1840.
To the office of Governor-General, and to our nation’s ongoing dialogue on Te Tiriti o Waitangi, I am proud to bring my dual Māori and British heritage. The Treaty relationship has been tested in our struggle to build mutual respect – but we continue to make progress, and I understand what an important role the Governor-General has to play in that task.
I’ve been gratified to see New Zealand’s increasing desire to engage fully and honestly with our history – notably through annual commemorations to mark the New Zealand Wars.
In my lifetime, I’ve also seen a remarkable shift in attitudes towards te reo Māori. It’s a joy to see so many New Zealanders eager to learn the language, as it is by far the best portal to an understanding of te ao Māori – and I will continue to be its champion.
The agenda I’ve outlined today reflects my own heritage and is underpinned by three key values.
The first is Kaitiakitanga – that we are temporary guardians of things that are precious to us, and have a responsibility to look after them for future generations.
Second is Oranga – preserving the health, vitality and wellbeing of living things.
And the third is Manaakitanga – and that is our duty of care for others – to uphold their mana, respect them and look after them.
With these values, I believe we are better able to work together to respond to adversity; to achieve public good and a sustainable future; and to build a society where all our citizens feel valued and included and can contribute to the best of their abilities.
I am reminded of Hone Tuwhare’s poem, ‘Friend’, where he writes that in nature, and through our connections with each other, we may always find comfort:
in this drear
dreamless time I clasp
your hand if only for reassurance
that all our jewelled fantasies were
real and wore splendid rags.
Perhaps the tree
will strike root again:
give soothing shade to a hurt and
I stand here today: grateful for this opportunity, and determined to bring all my experience, understanding, and resolve to this new chapter of our nation’s story.