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Opening of Defence House

Issue date: 
Wednesday, 2 October 2019
The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, CVO, QSO

Kei te hunga Mātātoa, tena koutou.

Nohou ra e Te Ope Kātua o Aotearoa, te whare e tu nei.

Na reira, haramai e nga mana, e nga reo, e te hunga ngārahu.

Tena Tatau katoa.


I acknowledge

the Hon Ron Mark, Minister of Defence,

Air Marshal Kevin Short, Chief of Defence,

Andrew Bridgman, Secretary of Defence,

Distinguished guests, and Defence Force personnel.

I am delighted to join the New Zealand Defence Force and the Ministry of Defence today at the opening of your new home.

In coming here today, I am reminded how the relationship between our Vice-regal representatives and Defence agencies has evolved since our earliest days as a nation.

An obvious difference is that a military background has gradually ceased to be a pre-requisite for a five-year term at Government House. 

And it’s a relief for all concerned that I do not shoulder the operational responsibilities of a Commander-in-Chief.

My earliest predecessors found that the exercise of such responsibilities wasn’t always career-enhancing.

In 1843, Governor Fitzroy decided not to use military force to arrest Te Rauparaha, Te Rangihaeata and other Ngāti Toa leaders, following the death of 22 settlers in the Wairau valley who had made an illegal attempt to arrest the chiefs.

Fitzroy’s decision was for pragmatic as much as ethical reasons, given that he had few soldiers at his disposal.

However, the colonists were outraged and he was recalled to London.

Governor Gore-Browne, by contrast, is remembered for his role in provoking war in Taranaki in 1860, when he attempted to buy land from a minor chief who lacked the authority to sell it.

Then, during the New Zealand Wars, Governor Grey proved to be a very persuasive lobbyist with the Foreign Office, securing additional British troops for the Northern War – and again for the invasion of Waikato and Tauranga – to counter a supposed – and probably illusory  - Kīngitanga threat to Auckland.

Governor Grey eventually fell out with both his British military commanders and the elected settler government.

The British troops were withdrawn, and the local Armed Constabulary fought the last battles of the New Zealand Wars.

In the 1880s, at the height of the Russian scare, New Zealand was able to draw on Governor Jervois’ extensive experience in constructing coastal fortifications.   But by the end of the 19th century, although a great many of my predecessors had seen active military service, the Vice-regal role as Commander in Chief had become largely ceremonial.

And so it remains, but I can assure you all that as Governor General I greatly value the continuing Vice Regal links with our Defence Force, especially the capable assistance provided by my Aides de Camp selected from the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Over their 12-month term with us, they become very much part of our lives, and it is always a wrench when the time comes  to say goodbye.

Another tradition that has been retained is the patronage of new military vessels by spouses of Governors-General.

One of the privileges of being a female Governor-General is the opportunity to disrupt that tradition somewhat, as it will be me, rather than my husband David, who will be naming HMNZS Aotearoa in Korea later this month.

Today, as you look forward to your first days working in these impressive new facilities, it’s a moment to reflect on Wellington’s long association with Defence.

In 1843 the 65th Regiment arrived to defend Wellington against possible Māori attack.  The troops occupied Pukeahu, where the Artillery barracks were subsequently built in 1882, followed by the General Headquarters Building in 1911.

The very stylish Departmental Building in Stout Street, completed in 1940, was the NZDF’s next home until 2007; then the Aitken Street premises, sadly rendered uninhabitable by the 2016 earthquake.

A new chapter for our defence agencies has been made possible by the transformation of this building that housed the Ministry of Social Development for 44 years, as well as the Ministry of Food café – much loved by civil servants seeking their caffeine fix.

Congratulations to everyone who has played a part in this remarkable project.

You have no doubt drawn on the qualities needed to see such a project through to its completion – as alluded to in this whakatauki: 

He manako te koura i kore ai.

Wishing for the crayfish won’t bring it.

In this new home, you will be working cheek by jowl with New Zealand’s Parliament, a constant reminder that our Defence Agencies serve the Government of the Day.

Your challenges and opportunities are aptly reflected in the sculpture that sits between Defence House and the Beehive.

Brett Graham’s work Kaiwhakatere - The Navigator evokes the notion of a navigator as pathfinder, visionary and  leader.

The first element of the sculpture, the head of a bird, or manu, represents a guide to the traveller and symbolises our inheritance, our future and the paths we may follow.

The waka, or crescent-moon shape, symbolises a hopeful new beginning or the embarking on a journey – and resonates with the voyaging traditions of Māori and Pākeha.

And finally, the tuuaahu – an altar of stones built on arrival in a new land – suggests promises and challenges.

I hope that being brought together again in this light and bright building will inspire you all in your vital work to uphold peace and security, the raison d’etre of our Defence agencies, and thereby in contributing to the future wellbeing of all our citizens.

No reira e te Whare, e tu.

Māu ano te hunga nei, e tau-awhi.

And so,  to the House, stand tall.

It’s your task now to embrace and support the people.

Last updated: 
Wednesday, 2 October 2019

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