Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā, e koro mā, nga mihi o te po,
tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou.
Nau mai haere mai ra, ki te whare kawana o te Whanganui-a-tara.
Thank you all for accepting the invitation to attend our first Order of New Zealand dinner at Government House.
It’s an occasion to reflect on the qualities that make people distinguished leaders in their fields, and the power that they have to influence the course of events, in their lifetime, and beyond.
It’s an influence embodied in this whakatauki:
He aha te kai a te rangatira? He korero, he korero, he korero.
What is the food of a leader? It is knowledge; it is communication.
Reflecting on the experience, talent, and diversity of leadership represented around this table, we can look forward to some memorable conversations this evening.
First, I extend a special welcome to a particularly celebrated exponent of korero, and the newest member of the Order of New Zealand whanau – Joy Cowley.
It is indeed a joy – forgive the pun – to celebrate and acknowledge the power of her words and the pleasure she has given to generations of New Zealanders – and young readers around the world.
As this year draws to a close, so too, do two special commemorations.
In 11 days time we will host the final event in our year of Suffrage 125 celebrations. On 28th November we will host a morning tea to mark 125 years to the day since NZ held the first general election in which women were able to vote.
I have been very proud to mark this world leading event in New Zealand’s history and I’ve tried to use these commemorations to reinforce the call to action and emphasise that there is much more that we can all do to regain our status as a truly world leading egalitarian society.
I hope we have gained some traction with this message – as I look back over my own career since I graduated from Law School in the 1970s I am disappointed at how just how slowly we have moved towards gender equity.
Last week, we came to the end of four years of centennial commemorations to mark New Zealand’s participation in the First World War.
It has been a privilege to represent New Zealand here and at international commemorations in France, Israel, Gallipoli and Belgium.
The two Armistice Day ceremonies here at Pukeahu last Sunday were a fitting conclusion to this very successful WW100 project. Armistice Ceremonies were held in many parts of NZ and reminded us all how important they are for understanding who we are, where we have come from, and what we stand for.
A week before Armistice Day, David and I attended our final international commemorations – at Le Quesnoy. It was an uplifting high point on which to conclude our ceremonies of remembrance on the Western Front.
What became evident for me is the very special relationship New Zealand has with the people of that little town.
A hundred years after NZ soldiers liberated Le Quesnoy from German occupation, they are still remembered for their actions in scaling the walls and liberating the civilian population, without any civilian casualties.
The appreciation of their decendants is evident for anyone walking along Rue de Nouvelle Zelande, the Avenue des Neo-Zelandais, or Rue Aotearoa in Le Quesnoy.
And it’s evident in the warm welcome extended to all visitors from New Zealand.
Le Quesnoy is part of our history and symbolises much to be proud of.
Hundreds of other New Zealanders were at the centennial commemorations, and I like to imagine that Le Quesnoy will become a place of pilgrimage in future years. I acknowledge the efforts of Sir Don and Lady Clare to strengthen those connections – in particular by their active support and leadership of the project to establish a New Zealand’s war memorial museum in the old gendarmerie.
I am reminded of the wonderful whakatauki which has been adopted by the French on their memorial at Pukeahu.
Haere whakamua titiro whakamuri. Let us walk into the future with our eyes open to the past.
It is at times like those commemorations – and on occasions like this – that we can truly celebrate extraordinary achievement, humanity and service.
Thank you all for your achievements, humanity and service, and the contributions you have made to our country.
Thank you for coming this evening and please enjoy the hospitality of the House.
No reira kia ora huihui tātou katoa.