malo e lelei,
fakaalofa lahi atu,
kia ora koutou
A warm welcome to Government House.
I specifically acknowledge:
The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, His Excellency Mr Leasi Papali’I Tommy Scanlon,
Hon Aupito William Sio,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Nicola Willis MP,
Kia ora koutou.
My thanks to the McGuiness Institute and Treasury for bringing together this gathering with the very topical focus of the impact of global heating in the Pacific.
Last year I was fortunate to go to the magnificent Oceania exhibition in London. It showcased a stunning collection of taonga of the Pacific.
Seeing those beautiful objects reinforced for me – and I am sure for many other people – just how much the islands of Aotearoa are Pacific Islands – and that the Pacific Ocean doesn’t separate our island nations. It is what connects us together.
The great voyagers of the Pacific colonised territory as far apart as Hawaii in the north, Aotearoa in the South, and Easter Island to the East.
A Tahitian chief who embodied that great voyaging tradition accompanied Captain Cook to Aotearoa in 1769. His name was Tupaia. He helped construct an impressive map of Pacific islands scattered across vast stretches of ocean.
He was able to name and place islands on the chart, thus proving that Pacific peoples maintained links through their navigational and seafaring skills.
When Cook arrived in Aotearoa, Tupaia’s presence proved to be invaluable. His shared ancestry and linguistic links with Māori were established lines of communication between Cook and iwi.
In the 21st century, as the migrations of Pacific peoples to Aotearoa continue apace – to pursue education, employment opportunities, or to join family members – the connections between Pacific peoples have strengthened in new ways.
So much of Aotearoa’s cultural vitality in fine arts, cinema, literature, fashion, opera, and popular music is due to the strength of Pasifika and Māori arts.
The impact of Māori and Pasifika influence and achievement is felt across many other fields of endeavour – and is one of the most fundamental and defining features of Aotearoa New Zealand.
New Zealand’s increased orientation towards the Pacific includes a shared understanding of a responsibility to support and promote the interests of Pacific Island nations.
Pacific Island peoples do not have the luxury of putting off thinking about the impact of global heating. They don’t have the time to speculate about what technological innovations might be developed to deal with carbon emissions.
They are already dealing with rising sea levels, storm surges, bleached coral, salination of agricultural land, and the loss of ancestral homelands.
Their current predicament is the not-too-distant predicament of low-lying coastal settlements around the world, including New Zealand.
As the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sosene Sopoaga has said, “If we save Tuvalu, we save the world”.
There is no place for wilful ignorance. Our best hope is that the rapid shift in attitudes towards global heating and climate crisis will accelerate and translate into lifestyle changes that will result in lower carbon emissions.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, elected to the United States Congress at the age of 29, recently said “Hope is not something that you have. Hope is something that you create, with your actions. Hope is something you have to manifest into the world, and once one person has hope, it can be contagious. Other people start acting in a way that has more hope.”
Today’s forum is part of that process. I have no doubt that the people presenting today will be leading the charge for change, and that their commitment will be contagious.
I wish them every success.
Kia ora, kia kaha, kia manawanui, huihui tātou katoa