Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā, e koro mā e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa.
I specifically acknowledge: Greg McManus, Chief Executive of the Waitangi National Trust; Sue Foley, and Mark Weenink, of Westpac; and Lisa Reihana, from the judging panel for the Our Nation's Children Art Competition; tēnā koutou katoa.
It is a great pleasure to welcome you all to Government House today.
I am delighted to support the Our Nation’s Children Art Competition, because by having our young people ask “What does Waitangi mean to me?” they will get a better understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the foundation document of our modern nation.
The research that comes from it, will stand them in good stead. As Thomas Dewar said, “Minds are like parachutes, they only work when open”. Learning about the Te Tiriti with an open mind can only lead to them appreciating the treasures held in the Treaty – our bi-cultural heritage and its implications for a multi-cultural, tolerant, confident and hopeful New Zealand.
Tonight I want to acknowledge one of my predecessors, Lord Bledisloe, Governor-General from 1930 to 1935. Bledisloe recognised the significance of Waitangi – the place and the deeds. We owe him a debt of thanks for purchasing the Treaty Grounds, and for establishing the Waitangi National Trust Board to look after the grounds for the nation. Without his interventions, we possibly would not be launching this art competition today.
Much good has come from Bledisloe’s bequest, and he would have appreciated seeing how his legacy has developed over time. Most recently with the opening of the magnificent new Museum at Waitangi – Te Kōngahu – his aspiration for us continues to gain substance.
With Bledisloe’s keen interest in New Zealand history, he would have very much supported the Waitangi National Trust’s promotion of Treaty education, and its goal to get more young New Zealanders visiting Waitangi. As this country’s future decision-makers, our children need to understand the founding document of our nation, know how its provisions have progressed, how they have been breached and the process of redress which is still underway, and how we might commit to respecting its principles in the future.
Where better to get an understanding of the Treaty – to see first-hand where it came into being - than to go to the spot where it was first introduced, debated and signed?
Having said that, I appreciate that there is considerable expense involved in school trips to Northland – especially if your school is in Southland.
So a prize of up to $10,000 for a school is an attractive incentive to get creative. So too is the provision of advice and assistance of The Bay of Islands Education Network, which I am pleased to see being launched this evening.
It’s time more New Zealanders appreciated that the Bay of Islands is one of the most significant heritage destinations in New Zealand.
A visit there brings our nation’s colonial history alive - the larger-than-life rangatira of Ngāpuhi, their early contact with Europeans and their significant part in helping to create the New Zealand we live in today.
I was reminded of the significance of this period when, in December 2014, I was privileged to open a new heritage park at Rangihoua. The park’s opening marked the bicentenary of the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand – a settlement which was supported and made possible by Ngāpuhi, rangatira Ruatara and his people.
On the way to Waitangi, I can imagine students enjoying a visit to the site of Kawiti’s great fighting pā at Ruapekapeka . There they can learn about what led to the Northern War, just five years after the Treaty was signed. They will see how Kawiti adapted traditional pā structures to withstand artillery bombardment.
Some of our oldest and most beautiful existing European colonial structures deserve a visit too - the Mission House and Stone Store at Keri Keri, Bishop Pompallier’s Mission and Printery at Russell, the mission stations at Mangungu and Te Waimate, and Clendon House. They all have fascinating stories to tell.
I hope our schools will embrace this opportunity to foster greater appreciation of our history. I hope our students will show, through their artwork, that they understand the responsibilities and opportunities they have, as citizens of New Zealand, under Te Tiriti.
I am delighted to formally launch the Our Nation’s Children Art Competition and the Bay of Islands Education Network, and wish everyone involved all the very best in your endeavours.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa