Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all.
I specifically acknowledge: Your Worship Hon Harry Duynhoven, Mayor of New Plymouth and your fellow councillors; Barbara McKerrow , Chief Executive of the New Plymouth District Council; Jonathan Young, MP for New Plymouth and fellow MP Andrew Little; Kinsley Sampson, Chair of the Len Lye Centre Trust ; Evan Webb, Director of the Len Lye Foundation; Malcolm Whyte, Deputy Chair of the Todd Foundation ; Haydn Wano, Chair of the TSB Community Trust – tēnā koutou katoa.
Thank you for inviting me and Janine to New Plymouth today to unveil the foundation plaque for the Len Lye Centre.
Today seems to be a day for plaque unveilings. Later today we are heading to Kaponga to open the Taranaki Regional Council’s new visitor centre at Hollard Gardens. I’ve lost count of the number of plaques I’ve unveiled. It’s one of the things they never mention to you when you sign on for this job – there’s an art to unveiling a plaque. It can so easily go wrong. The stories of the jammed curtain rail or the plaque that fell off the stand are legion. Fingers crossed!
Seriously, however, it’s wonderful to be in Taranaki. While I’ve visited many times, this is the first time I have been here as Governor-General. The visit was overdue and we’re planning on returning before we finish our term in three years’ time.
To visit Taranaki is to experience a region that is the living expression of the word “contrast.” From the roaring surf at the coast and the lush green farm land, to the ring of native bush and sitting at its heart, the snow-capped peak of its solitary and sacred maunga, there is something that sets this region apart. It’s often said that Taranaki is the only place where you can ski in the morning and then go surfing in the afternoon.
And like the land they inhabit, the people of Taranaki are full of energy, and I’m not referring to Texas tea! Maybe it is something about living apart on the western most edge of the North Island that the people of Taranaki are renowned – if you’ll excuse another pun – for being ahead of the wave.
There are so many examples. For starters, there’s its community-owned bank, and its pioneering dairy and petroleum industries. And it is home to international music festival, WOMAD.
And then there’s the care the city has taken for its environment and the wellbeing of its people. This city was one of the first provincial centres to stop pumping raw sewage into sea and installed comprehensive treatment in 1984. It was another 17 years before Wellington followed suit.
And after a century of turning its back to the sea, New Plymouth created a foreshore walkway that stretches from the port to the Waiwhakaiho River and the multi-award-winning Te Rewa Rewa Bridge . At the other end of the walkway is the indoor aquatic centre, opened in the early 1990s with its focus on fun in the water. The centre’s wave machine has set the standard for almost every other pool that has been built since.
And sitting right in the middle of the foreshore walkway is the iconic Len Lye wind wand, installed in late 1999 to mark the new millennium. I’ve been told there was a period when the local paper ran more stories about a red pole with a knob on the end, than just about any other topic!
Given the vitality, ingenuity and passion of its people, and being home to New Zealand’s leading contemporary art gallery, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, it’s not surprising that New Plymouth is where Len Lye decided his collection should make its home. The gallery has long been recognised for supporting artists and hosting exhibitions that challenge preconceptions and stimulate debate.
To my mind, that is what all art is about. Art that fails to enrich and stimulate our imaginations really isn’t art at all. And by all counts, Len Lye’s work certainly stimulates minds and debate!
It seems quite clear that the Len Lye Centre will become an iconic building for New Plymouth and New Zealand. Highlighting the works of Len Lye, one of New Zealand’s many internationally renowned artists, the Centre will form a new and vibrant part of New Zealand’s cultural architecture and cultural infrastructure.
The people of New Plymouth and Taranaki have much to be proud of. I am certain that when it is completed the Len Lye Centre will be the latest addition to the catalogue of features and facilities that make this city and region so special.
And so on that note, it gives me great pleasure to unveil the foundation plaque. Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.