Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Nau mai,
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all, and welcome to Government House Wellington.
I specifically acknowledge:
Hon Kiri Allen MP – Minister of Conservation
Hon James Shaw MP – Minister for Climate Change and Associate Minister for the Environment
Hon Scott Simpson MP – National Party Environment Spokesperson
Mr Bruce Wills – Chairperson of the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust Board of Directors
Mr Dan Coup – Chief Executive of the QEII National Trust
Ms Karen Schumacher, Mr Alan Livingston ONZM, Ms Donna Field, and Mr Graham Mourie MBE – Directors on the QEII Board
David and I are delighted to be able host you all today, in what I’m both sad and very proud to say will be my final event as Governor-General.
Back at the start of my term – what feels an eternity ago now – I spoke at the launch of the Mount Terako Covenant, as New Zealand’s first contribution to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy.
It feels entirely fitting that this, the launch of QEII’s Partners in Protection Programme, should be my final event in the role.
Over these past five years, I’ve welcomed every opportunity to support and celebrate those working for the good of New Zealand’s natural environment.
David and I were determined to host today’s event, as this initiative so clearly aligns with our own priorities of conservation and sustainability. We felt it would be a perfect way to end our time at Government House.
I’ve especially enjoyed reporting on QEII events to Her Majesty the Queen, and keeping her informed of the Trust’s progress.
I’m pleased to see that the Partners in Protection Programme will allow QEII to acknowledge the generosity of individuals and families planning to leave gifts to the Trust in their wills, and to thank them during the course of their lifetime.
Individuals such as Dick and Jillian Jardine, who we’re thrilled to have with us this afternoon, and who recently made that extraordinary gift of 900 hectares of their land near Queenstown to QEII.
Dick and Jillian, and others here today, demonstrate remarkable generosity and foresight – placing environmental considerations over and above economic gain, because they appreciate that the land and resources of Aotearoa New Zealand are, in fact, priceless.
These individuals and families accept responsibility for protecting New Zealand’s finite and fragile natural assets, and understand that it is a task extending beyond our own lifetime. And for that, we owe them a huge debt.
We may be an increasingly urban nation, but New Zealanders retain a deep affinity with our natural world. The Great Walks book out in seconds, while Forest and Bird’s annual ‘Bird of the Year’ competition attracts as much debate and controversy as most elections.
One of the many things I’ll miss about Government House is these beautiful grounds and gardens, which have been designed, planted, and cared for with utmost consideration for the local ecosystem. Our head gardener, Morag, and her team do an outstanding job.
I’ll miss taking afternoon walks about the grounds with David; seeing the seasons reflected in the life and colours around us; and, on occasions, waking up to the sound of kaka having conversations outside our window.
The whakataukī, ‘whatungarongaro te tangata toitū te whenua’, reminds us of that most humbling fact: that once we’ve all gone, the land will remain. I find myself increasingly wondering: what state will we leave it in?
The recent IPCC report unequivocally stated what we already knew: that human activity is causing widespread, rapid, and sometimes irreversible changes to our climate and our planet.
You only need to put on the news to see the symptoms: wildfires, flooding, record-breaking temperatures. The frightening thing is just how routine these sorts of stories are becoming – how accustomed we are to seeing such natural catastrophes.
The question is no longer whether we need to act, but whether we have the will to do so before it’s too late. Because if we don’t, we will leave future generations with an Earth beyond repair.
It takes the commitment and drive of individuals to turn the tide, helped by organisations like the QEII Trust and the Department of Conservation.
I hope more and more New Zealanders will consider how they too can contribute: whether it’s by becoming involved in predator-free programmes, considering their day-to-day impact on the environment via food or travel, or simply encouraging native birds with the right kind of planting in their gardens.
Today, on behalf of all New Zealanders, I congratulate everyone involved in the QEII National Trust, for the work you do for New Zealand, and wish you all the very best as you continue to expand the network.
It truly is a great pleasure, in one of my final official acts as Governor-General, to launch the QEII’s Trust Partners in Protection Programme.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.