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Dawn ceremony at Te Papa

Issue date: 
Saturday, 1 January 2000
The Rt Hon Sir Michael Hardie Boys, GNZM, GCMG, QSO

Korihi te manu takiri mai te ata ka ao, ka ao, ka awatea.

Tihei mauriora!

In words of our first people, I greet the new dawn, the light of a new day, the coming of a new century, of a new millennium.

We in this land are the first to see a new day, but there have been human eyes here to see it for only a thousand years; a fraction of time in the sweep of human history; while the written record of that history has acknowledged our existence for a much shorter time still.

Yet even in that time - just part of it in fact - these islands, at the uttermost end of the earth, have become a vigorous nation, taking a respected place, and playing a full role, in world affairs, in war and in peace.

Building on our rich heritage from both Polynesia and Europe, we have established our own identity as a down-to-earth, no-nonsense, friendly people, rich in our ethnic and cultural diversity, innovative and creative, often leading the way in social change, in science and in technology, expressing ourselves strongly in art and music and literature, in sport and in high adventure.

As we look back over our quite brief history, we can be proud of the achievements of New Zealand and New Zealanders.

Today, the sun will rise as it has done since time began. The cycle of the seasons and the passing of the years will go on while the earth endures. The great natural world knows nothing of clocks and calendars. 'A thousand ages in thy sight are like an evening gone', as the hymnist put it. Yet for us humans, the passing of time is important if only as a reminder of things still to be done, and of the mortality that means that we do not have forever in which to do those things.

And the coming of a new year is a time to look back at what we have made of the year just gone, and hopefully to make a commitment for the year to come. A new century I suppose simply makes that point more emphatically.

But this new millennium we have invested with much greater significance. For some reason which we would find it hard to explain, many are looking to it as the beginning of something new, something better than we have known before, a watershed for our nation and our world. The dawn, perhaps, of a new, a golden age? Where, then, should we go now? Where should we as a people, the nation of Aotearoa New Zealand, go now?

Perhaps we could begin by recalling what the millennium is really about. It is that our calendar, on which we have counted off 2,000 years, begins with a birth - or rather a 6th century monk's calculation, which is thought to have been out by four years, of the date of the birth - of one who is seen by Christians, in the words of the Hebrew prophet Isaiah, as the Prince of Peace.

Whether we share that perception or not, it is surely the golden age of peace on earth, sung about so much at Christmas, that people everywhere long for as the fruit of the new millennium.

Peace of course is not just an absence of war. It is essentially an attitude of mind, a shared expectation, which cannot be achieved where there is injustice and poverty and hunger, or where there is gross inequity in economic and social circumstances, or where corruption and tyranny deny essential human dignity. The world is sorely burdened with such impediments to lasting peace. New Zealanders work in many roles and in many places, and give generously, in order to alleviate them. We must never reduce this commitment to the world beyond our shores. Just as no man is an island, so is no nation sufficient unto itself.

Here at home commitment is needed too. Much though we have achieved in the 20th century, much remains for us in the 21st. It is well over 100 years since we were at war among ourselves, yet we are not even now a people fully at peace with ourselves. Past injustices and present inequities still rankle. Financial insecurity, unemployment, underachievement, inequality of opportunity, such things gnaw away at our social fabric.

If we are to set a goal, if we are to make a resolution, as one is meant to do on New Year's Day, perhaps it should be to eliminate these things, by striving for a greater sense of community, for that sense of belonging to each other and being dependent on each other, that is, I suggest, essential to peace in our midst.

This calls for some changed attitudes, for a reassessment of some values and priorities; and as well for an ever-greater determination to see our nation succeed and prosper, so that we have enough both to reward success and to eliminate underprivilege. It calls for an even stronger dedication to the betterment of our fellows, so that the plenty we have is made available for the good of all.

I have great confidence in New Zealand and in our people. We have proved ourselves time and again. Just as our forebears embarked on voyages across far horizons to find home in a new land, so can we, with equal enterprise and vigour, embark on the voyage of mind and spirit which opens before us in this new millennium.

Even though we won't be able to see it, the sun is about to rise over the hills to the east. I pray that as a nation we will rise to the challenge of this new day, so that our legacy to our mokopuna, our descendants, will be a New Zealand both good and great, one for which they will thank us, even as we thank those whose vision and whose labours have brought us to this day.

I wish you all a most happy and rewarding New Year.

Kia ora tatou.

Last updated: 
Friday, 9 January 2009

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