Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated.
The Rt Hon Helen Clark, Prime Minister; the Hon Phil Goff, Minister of Defence; the Hon Parekura Horomia, Minister of Maori Affairs; Lt Gen Jerry Mateparae, Chief of Defence Force; Rear Admiral David Ledson, Chief of the Navy; Maj Gen Lou Gardiner, Chief the Army; Air Vice Marshal Graham Lintott, Chief of the Air Force; Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson, former Chief of Defence Force; Maj Gen Martyn Dunne, Colonel Commandant of the New Zealand SAS; Distinguished Guests and dignitaries otherwise, ladies and gentlemen.
I greet you in the languages of the realm of New Zealand - English, Maori, Cook Island Maori, Niuean, Tokelauan and New Zealand Sign Language.
Greetings, Kia Ora, Kia Orana, Fakalofa Lahi Atu, Taloha Ni and (Sign)
I welcome you to Government House Wellington this morning.
Ladies and gentlemen, as Governor-General I have the authority and privilege on behalf of her Majesty The Queen to hold an Investiture on her behalf and to confer the honour of the Victoria Cross for New Zealand on Corporal Bill Henry Apiata of the 1st New Zealand Special Air Service Group.
You have rendered distinguished service to our country New Zealand, to the Commonwealth and to The Queen.
Ladies and gentlemen, as Corporal Apiata is honoured, may I invite you to join me in thanking him for his service and in congratulating him on his well-merited awards.
I will now ask Mr Andrew Renton-Green, the Official Secretary at Government House, to read the citation.
The citation is read and the investiture of the Victoria Cross for New Zealand occurs.
Ladies and Gentlemen, and in particular Corporal Bill Henry Apiata, who has been honoured today, Distinguished Guests otherwise, families and friends.
The ceremony is concluded and I wish to bring matters to an end.
New Zealand is an extraordinary country, which has, in its relatively short history, achieved many remarkable things.
Our nation's successes are, without question, driven by its people. We are fortunate to have a wealth of talent, innovation, spirit, compassion and courage that belies our geographical size.
In that, the country is very fortunate.
This morning I had the considerable honour of identifying an individual who has displayed outstanding acts of courage and gallantry and the privilege of conferring the honour awarded by Her Majesty The Queen.
The Victoria Cross for New Zealand is this nation's highest award for gallantry for military personnel involved in operational service. Corporal Apiata represents some of the best qualities that we as a nation can be proud, and it is right for him to have his investiture today.
Corporal Apiata joins a select group of individuals whose deeds in war and operational service have been so recognised, since the award was established after the Crimean War to recognise distinguished and prominent personal gallantry, regardless of rank or station.
New Zealanders honoured for their valour include one of my predecessors, Lt Gen Bernard, Lord Freyberg and Captain Charles Upham, one of only three people to ever receive the Victoria Cross twice.
Another was Lt Te Moananui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu, the first, and until today, the only New Zealand Maori soldier to receive the Victoria Cross. Lt Ngarimu, who was killed in action in 1943, was honoured posthumously at a hui later that year in Ruatoria by my predecessor, Sir Cyril Newall.
That investiture was organised by Maori leader Sir Apirana Ngata and a signed copy of the accompanying bound booklet he wrote, The Price of Citizenship, sits with pride in the Government House collection in the room next door.
Corporal Apiata's medal is only the 14th Victoria Cross awarded since the end of the Second World War. He is the first New Zealander to be so honoured since the end of that war and the first holder of the Victoria Cross for New Zealand, which was instituted by Royal Warrant in 1999. He is also the first serving member of the SAS anywhere in the Commonwealth to be so honoured.
The Warrant for the Victoria Cross for New Zealand says that the Award is: "For most conspicuous gallantry, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy or of belligerents."
By any standard, your display of gallantry, courage and leadership in Afghanistan in 2004, when you placed yourself in extreme danger to save a seriously wounded comrade, meets all of those criteria.
The words of New Zealand author and poet D'Arcy Cresswell, writing in 1939, seem particularly fitting in describing your actions:
"New Zealanders make the most reliable and dauntless companions there are, and in dangerous situations will never leave a mate, as they call one another, for a moment."*
We can only express pride in your extraordinary display of heroism in, as Cresswell put it, "never leaving a mate". This award not only reflects the dedication, skill and professionalism of the New Zealand Special Air Service but also your own personal courage and character.
Our country's Honours System seeks to reward exceptional people in its own particular way. It celebrates New Zealanders from all walks of life, whose contributions may span business, sport, the sciences, education, art, public service and, in a handful of cases, acts of extraordinary valour such as yours.
Just as important as the exceptional courage you have displayed, is the inspiration and role modelling for citizenship that you have provided for other New Zealanders.
It has been a great privilege for me to confer this honour on you today and it will remain special because you are the first person to the receive the Victoria Cross for New Zealand. On behalf of all New Zealanders, I congratulate you and thank you for what you have done for your fellow citizens and your country.
Kia ora, kia kaha, tena koutou katoa
*D'Arcy Cresswell, Present without Leave, London, 1939, page 189.