Kia ora tātou, nga mihi mahana ki a koutou. Warm greetings to you all.
I specifically acknowledge The Honorable Grant Robertson, Deputy Prime Minister, The Honorable Andrew Little, Minister of Health, Mark Dunajtschik and Dorothy Spotswood.
Last year, when I took up residence at Government House – just across the road– I noticed this very striking building and I was delighted to learn it would soon be a new children’s hospital.
The wellbeing of children is close to my heart – and not just because I derive so much joy from my roles as doting mother and grandmother.
Child health and wellbeing has always been a strong driver of my work – in academia, the health sector, and in the public service.
There is a whakataukī that expresses something of my motivations: Poipoia te kakano kia puawai – nurture the seed and it will blossom.
I believe it is a deeply human instinct to do what we can to protect and nurture children.
Our precious tamariki and rangatahi are our gifts from the future and we have a moral obligation to ensure that they are well equipped to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
Whether or not we have children ourselves, we can all remember what it is like to be young, ill, and powerless: totally reliant on adults to be our advocates and carers.
And those of us whose children have experienced serious illness will know the dreadful anxiety and sense of helplessness that parents feel at such times.
So when the first children’s hospital in Aotearoa opened its doors here in Wellington, in 1912, it was because there had been strong public support for such a facility – helped by tireless fundraisers, generous donors and an army of volunteers.
And so it is, 110 years later.
A children’s hospital is ideally a purpose-built facility where paediatric health-care specialists can work alongside each other.
Since 1912, our understanding of how it should look and feel has changed. This building comes with a greater appreciation of the need to make a children’s hospital suitably welcoming and comfortable for children, as well as their families.
That these ideals have been so fully realised in Te Wao Nui is due in no small part to the remarkable kindness and generosity of Mark Dunajtschik and Dorothy Spotswood.
Mark and Dorothy – it is a privilege to join you here today. On behalf of your fellow New Zealanders, I thank you most sincerely for your dedication to the wellbeing of others, through this and other health initiatives you have supported.
It is only fitting that this new building be named after you both. Your legacy will be appreciated by generations of young New Zealanders and their families.
If I can, for a moment, wear the hat of my previous role, Chief Executive of the Royal Society, I note how exciting it will be for the health-care specialists to work here, learn from each other and make advances that will improve the care of children around the world.
In 1912, when one of my predecessors, Lord Islington, opened the new children’s hospital, it was dedicated to the memory of King Edward VII.
At the beginning of this week, our National Memorial Service farewelled King Edward’s great grand-daughter, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
The Queen was known for her positivity and quiet confidence in the essential goodness of humankind. Today is a wonderful affirmation of the values that she held dear – and I know this project very much aligns with King Charles’ abiding interest in the wellbeing of young people.
My congratulations and sincere thanks to all the many individuals and organisations who have played a part in bringing the vision of Te Wao Nui into this magnificent reality.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.