Kia ora koutou. Nga mihi o te tau hou. New Year Greetings to you all.
Last year I was fortunate to visit two isolated, tranquil landscapes – at Wairau Bar and Rangihoua, places which may not be familiar to many New Zealanders. As it happens, they are of profound significance to the history of human settlement on our planet. New Zealand was the last major land mass to be settled and Wairau Bar is now considered one of the first major entry points for Polynesian migration in New Zealand. Rangihoua was the site of the first permanent European settlement here.
At both of these places of new beginnings, I reflected on the courage and resilience, our pioneering forebears needed to leave behind their familiar worlds, to venture into the unknown and to face the considerable challenges of a new land. Like those who followed them, the first New Zealanders came here to forge a better life for themselves. That vision of optimism and hope continues to attract people from many nations – people who see this country as a haven, a place of new beginnings, where they and their children can see a brighter future.
Today, when a quarter of New Zealand’s population was born elsewhere, we have the opportunity to ensure that our newest New Zealanders are welcomed, are valued, and are enabled to take their place amongst us. We want every New Zealander, whatever their origins, to live the life they would best imagine for themselves and their descendants.
This wish will be uppermost in my mind in 2015, when the theme for my programme is Nationhood. This year we will commemorate a number of significant milestones: the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi; the centenary of the Gallipoli landings, the 150th anniversary of the shift of government to Wellington – and the 50th anniversary of the Cook Islands’ independence. These anniversaries will be occasions to take stock of where we are as a nation, and to think about the future we want our children to inherit.
During the year I will continue on my programme to visit places in New Zealand where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, and I will encourage our citizens to reflect on what that historic partnership means for us. I look forward to occasions where we will celebrate our unique and vibrant cultures and I will be proud to represent New Zealand overseas in support of our international role as a respected and principled global citizen.
In thinking about nationhood and what it means to us, I like to quote Stephen Ambrose: “The past is a source of knowledge, and the future is a source of hope. Love of the past implies faith in the future.”
I see increasing interest in our collective histories and cultures and a willingness to learn from them. This gives me great optimism that we can look forward with hope to a nation where people – from whatever background – have the opportunity to contribute and make a difference; in the workplace, in the social and cultural realm; and in their communities.
New Year is a time to reflect on the year just past and to think about new beginnings. I hope the summer break includes time for all New Zealanders to relax with family and friends; to spend time in the hills, in the bush or at the beach; and to recharge their batteries in preparation for the challenges and opportunities of the year ahead.
Happy New Year, and a safe and happy holiday.
Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO Governor-General of New Zealand