Kia ora koutou.
I specifically acknowledge: the Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key and Mrs Bronagh Key; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon David Carter; Mr Andrew Little, Leader of the Opposition; Ministers of the Crown; Chief Justice, Rt Hon Dame Sian Elias; Her Excellency O’love Jacobsen, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and members of the Diplomatic Corps.
Ladies and gentlemen I am honoured to have been conferred as a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order. I never imagined, five years ago, that I would receive a QSO – or speak at our Farewell State Luncheon.
Before we took on the role, I had few opportunities – or the inclination – to speak in front of large audiences. However, two months into Jerry’s term, I had to step up and host an event, when he was called away at short notice.
Since then, my approach has been to embrace the challenge, face the fear, and just do it anyway! Today, for example.
This role has given me opportunities to learn more about New Zealand. I have seen our magnificent landscapes. I have met people, all over the country, who are doing great things for their communities.
No two weeks have been the same – from an evening in the ballroom with members of the Royal Family, a few days later in gumboots in a cow-shed; to visiting Birthright in the Hawkes Bay, or getting drenched in a boat in Dusky Sound.
I have enjoyed working with my patronages – a standout for me was a Crohns and Colitis New Zealand camp – Camp Purple Live – for young people.
In Gisborne, when I visited Girl Guides, I was informed that I was – in their words – the ‘first important visitor’ since Lady Baden-Powell in the 1940s!
I have made sure Jerry and I have had time with family and friends. They have come to garden parties, dinners, receptions and events associated with royal visits; and shared our private occasions. I want to thank our friends, some of whom are here today.
Over the last five years we have celebrated three family weddings; my Dad’s 80th; significant birthdays for Jerry, myself and our sons; and the arrival of five grandchildren. Friends of our younger sons have visited and stayed over and played cricket and touch rugby on the North Lawn.
Luke’s friends have enjoyed a wine-and-cheese party and two birthdays, celebrating crate days by the pool. Sam recently hosted a ‘pandas, pirates, pimps and policemen’ party in the Norrie State Dining Room – very different from the usual guest list.
I want to thank our older children – Krisha and her husband Dave; Renee and her husband Steve; and Jeremy and his wife Sara – for understanding the commitments which have limited our ability to spend time with their children – our grandchildren. We have enjoyed the time when we have been able to have them visit us at Government House.
A special thank you to Sam and Luke for keeping life real – whether it was with lots of friends staying over, the mileage on our cars or your untidy bedrooms. Thank you to their girlfriends, Amber and Tasha, for reining them in!
A big thank you to Jerry whose belief in my abilities has always been far stronger than my own belief. He expected me to, and knew I could step up, keep up and be the best I could be. I have done that with his support and some military can do/will do attitude thrown in.
The last family member to mention is our cat Boots. He will miss the attention he receives from the staff and visitors – including the media – and the opportunity to photobomb official occasions.
Finally, I thank my parents, Graeme and Helen, and my brother Steve and his wife Jess for their support.
Prime Minister, thank you once again for presenting the QSO to me, and this opportunity to reflect on a memorable five years.