E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga iwi o te motu 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: Hon Maggie Barry, Minister of Conservation; Vanessa van Uden and Tony Lepper, Mayors of Queenstown Lakes District Council and Central Otago District Council respectively; James Guild, Chairman of the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust, and Russell Hamilton, Manager of Soho Property - tēnā koutou katoa.
Thank you for inviting me here today to visit this incredibly beautiful part of New Zealand. Being here, as we celebrate the protection of a significant part of this region’s landscape for future generations to enjoy, is a very special occasion.
New Zealand’s isolation has seen us as a nation develop a very strong sense of place. For many of us, even those who live in cities, the landscape of our country especially the high country captures our sense of home. These rugged hills and valleys, formed over the millennia, are as representative of New Zealand as is the silver fern. While humankind’s presence is certainly visible now; the terrain, the scenery and the environment will be here long after we have gone. This Maori proverb captures that idea: “Toitu he whenua, whatungarongaro he tangata? The land remains while people disappear”.
I don’t want to wax too lyrical - this is the South Island and I know you don’t really do flowery . However, the continued protection of our land and the plants and animals that live on it, is of great importance for us and our future generations.
I recently visited the Auckland Islands, where the Department of Conservation is doing outstanding work to make the islands predator free and re-kindle the native flora and fauna. DOC is showing great leadership in this area but it’s clear to me that we all have a responsibility for preserving and caring for our land.
When I was approached to be the Patron of the QE II National Trust I was delighted because, like most New Zealanders, I applaud work that helps protect, preserve and enhance thousands of hectares of our landscape the length and breadth of New Zealand. The protection work the Trust facilitates is a great example of private individuals, families and businesses working in partnership for the ultimate benefit of everyone. The work undertaken since the Trust’s formation has supported landowners with a conservation vision for their land. It has also helped broaden the sense of what it means to be an owner and caretaker, moving past the idea that a plot of land is only as valuable as the financial return that can be extracted from it.
We are very privileged to have people who share that stewardship vision. In particular today, we are fortunate to have a benefactor with Mutt Lange’s vision and ethic that embodies the responsible ownership of these blocks of land. The Mahu Whenua covenants are a significant gift to New Zealand, and one that we are appreciative of. His generosity ensures that a large swathe of our fragile natural and historic heritage is protected, while the provision of permanent public access also offers new recreation opportunities for everyone.
I hope that others see what has been achieved here and take inspiration from it. Conservation and commerce can sit together very comfortably. The example here is that 15% of the sustainably farmable land on Motatapu, Soho and Glencoe Stations produces a greater yield than was achieved from the whole original acreage.
Thank you once again to all those who have made this covenant possible, the QE 2 Trust and especially Mutt Lange. I hope Mutt continues to enjoy the stewardship of these valuable covenants as much as we, our children and all future New Zealanders will enjoy and appreciate their existence. Kia ora huihui tātou katoa