Homecoming at Mōtatau Marae
Kei nga mana, kei nga reo,
Kei aku nui, kei aku rahi,
koutou, tātou, ko nga urupā
o rātou kua riro ki te po.
Tēnā tātou katoa.
No koutou te reo karanga,
kia pōwhiritia e mātou ko taku whānau
ki tō tātou marae, o Motatau.
Mihi mai, whakatau mai!
tēnā tatou katoa.
The land leaves a lasting impression on our soul. The light, sound, smells, people, the heat – or rain. So many things comprise the sense and song of a place – of coming home.
The North has always meant coming home to me and my family. We grew up with my maternal grandparents, both native speakers of te reo from Te Tai Tokerau, who moved from Whangārei to Auckland as part of the great Māori urban diaspora in the 60s.
They retained their reo, despite growing up at a time when they were punished at school for speaking it, and living in a society where it was scorned in public life. I have had to re-learn – rather too poorly – our reo.
I am here today with my whānau and members of my hapū and iwi. Among them are my most beloved: sons, moko, siblings, cousins, and those bound by marriage and years of life together.
I am very moved, in their presence, to receive this gift of the korowai. This is a cloak that covers us both physically and metaphysically – connecting us back to our tīpuna, and forward to our decedents.
I am honoured to be part of a proud lineage of Governors-General, especially as an uri ō Ngāti Hine, ō Ngāpuhi nui tonu.
Every Governor-General forges their own unique path to this role – including, of course, Sir Paul Reeves, who served as Archbishop and Primate of New Zealand, before becoming our first Māori Governor-General.
My own path here was informed by my experience of growing up in a working-class family with no expectations of highly paid work, or of a tertiary education.
Like many others of my generation, I was the first in my family to attend university, and the first to enter a profession.
Gaining higher education, and the fortunate choice of well-educated spouses, have been instrumental in creating a better life for myself, my children, and my mokopuna.
Of course, perseverance in the face of obstacles, and determination to do work that is important to me, have been factors in achieving both career and personal fulfilment.
In spite of my own setbacks and shortcomings, I have always strived to serve my people, and to make a difference.
This group before me – my family – have been with me at every stage. They are the inevitable receptacles of love and pain, manāki and mōhiotanga, and our shared love of waiata, stories, embracing, and kai.
Close family know all the nicknames – none of mine flattering (or theirs!) They know the heartache of losing loved ones too young – including my mother at 56. My dad is still alive and will be 90 this year.
In just a few weeks’ time, I will travel to the United Kingdom in my first overseas trip at Governor-General, to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
In her 70 years as our monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth has demonstrated an unfaltering commitment to duty, and a firm belief in the value of the Commonwealth.
I met Her Majesty when I started in this role just over six months ago, and was struck by her joy, vitality, and ease of engagement with people, even via Zoom on the other side of the world.
We live in uncertain and unsettling times, and our sense of unity and nationhood must be strengthened by working together, not weakened by the actions and words of a few.
We must exercise our own mana and connection to other peoples and indigenous communities throughout the Commonwealth, across Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa, and through Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
In addition to the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, we witness the impacts of climate change and economic instability.
In these things, we must continue to be guided by wisdom, courage, and our care for one another. Only decency, compassion, and understanding can help us to overcome what lays ahead.
Today, in this beautiful place, let us not lose sight of our collective progress, and the achievement of the many – and know that I remain committed to the service of those who need it most.
Wherever I go in Aotearoa or internationally, representing the people of New Zealand, I will take with me your aroha and support, and know that I will never take them for granted.
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.