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Outward Bound 50 year celebration

Issue date: 
Saturday, 1 September 2012
Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO

Kia ora, nga mihi o te po ki a koutou.  Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good evening and greetings to you all.

I specifically acknowledge: Sir David Levene, Bruce Cardwell and Trevor Taylor, Patron, Chairman and Chief Executive of Outward Bound New Zealand respectively; Rob Fyfe, Chief Executive of Air New Zealand and our guest speaker tonight; and Maggie Barry, Member of Parliament and MC for tonight - tēnā koutou katoa.

It’s a real pleasure for Janine and me to join you tonight.  Thank you for inviting us to this dinner to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Outward Bound New Zealand.  Any birthday is special, and especially a 50th birthday, and given the connections between the Office of the Governor General and Outward Bound there is added significance for me on this occasion.  History records that on this day in 1962 the then Governor-General, Lord Cobham, flew to the Marlborough Sounds in an RNZAF flying boat to open the Outward Bound School at Anakiwa.  And what is more he convinced both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition of the day to join him!   

What is less well known is that that event was just 13 days before the end of his term as Governor-General.   When others might have been focused on all the other events and commitments that precede the end of a Governor-General’s term - Parliamentary and Civic receptions, farewell parades and, not the least, packing one’s bags and those of his large family for the long sea journey back to Britain - instead, he chose to fly to a remote spot to open a school. 

He was not there just to meet and greet, nibble on cucumber sandwiches, utter some well-meaning words, and cut a ribbon.  He was there because Cobham fervently believed in Outward Bound, and the concepts and values on which it was based.  As a man who loved sport and physical activity - he had been an English test cricketer and loved the outdoors - he saw in Outward Bound a concept that combined the best of both to help prepare young people for the journey of life.

Historian Ian McGibbon has described Cobham as a “driving force”  behind the establishment of the Outward Bound Trust and the School that bears his name.  He adroitly used the influence that comes with the Office of Governor-General to help establish Outward Bound in New Zealand.  He convened meetings at Government House, co-opted prominent business people and promoted the concept in speeches he gave, where he lauded its potential to promote “initiative and self-discipline in the young” .  An edited collection of his speeches, made during his time as Governor General, was published in 1962, sold more than 50,000 copies and he donated the £10,000 profit to the Trust.  

Cobham’s example and the legacy of his enthusiasm, promotion and name are an organisation, and a course, that is seen as one of our iconic Kiwi brands.  It is viewed as a quintessential Kiwi institution because it resonates with New Zealanders – it brings people together, promotes our great outdoors and develops the potential within people, especially our young people.

I have no personal experience of Outward Bound.  However, I do recognise and endorse the principles, practices and techniques that underpin it.  By defying those who seek an Outward Bound experience to reach beyond their comfort zone, to look within themselves, to reflect, to find self-confidence and self-respect and to give direction to their lives; Outward Bound offers them an amazing adventure.  It is an experience that tests both their bodies and their minds.  It encourages individuals to draw on the power of a team and fundamental human values.  It challenges people to embrace the importance of service to others.

Kurt Hahn, who co-founded Outward Bound in Britain, put it this way when he said: “Without the instinct for adventure in young people, any civilisation, however enlightened, any state, however well ordered, must wilt and wither.”

Fifty years on Outward Bound has certainly not wilted or withered.  Instead it has flourished and it has motivated 52,000 New Zealanders to do better and in the process it has made our country a better place to live.

To conclude, I congratulate all of those whom have been involved in steering Outward Bound to this historic anniversary.  Given the nautical origin of “outward bound” I will close with a quote by New Zealander Colin Quincey, the first man to row across the Tasman.  Quincey’s words are included in a booklet of inspirational quotes used at the Cobham Outward Bound School.  Quincey scribbled on the deck beams of his boat, Tasman Trespasser, the following:

“Every man needs a little madness.  Or else he never dares to cut the rope - and be free!  The day that mankind ceases to have the courage, the determination, the imagination, to cut that rope will be the saddest, most retrograde day of all for our civilisation … We can only prevent it happening by allowing our young people access to the rope and giving them a knife, if they want it.”

Congratulations to everyone on 50 years of courage, 50 years of determination and 50 years of imagination.  But most of all, congratulations for giving 52,000 Kiwis the opportunity to cut the rope and be free!  Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.

Last updated: 
Saturday, 1 September 2012

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