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.
I specifically acknowledge: Minister of Conservation, Hon Maggie Barry; Chairman of Project Crimson Trust, Devon McLean; and our MC, Ruud Kleinpaste - tēnā koutou katoa.
It is a great pleasure for Janine and me to welcome you all to Government House today.
This year New Zealanders will commemorate several important events in our nation’s story. And so, the theme for my programme is nationhood. The work of the Project Crimson Trust very much fits into that theme. I say that because New Zealanders’ attachment to our landscape is central to our sense of identity.
An image of a Pohutukawa in bloom against a clear blue sky evokes memories of Summer, Tui perched precariously seeking sweet nectar, Christmas and time with family and friends. Pohutukawa are and must remain a defining part of the coastal landscape in the North Island. Similarly, it would be unthinkable to lose our magnificent rata from our forests.
The concerned citizens who got together 25 years ago to set up Project Crimson, to reverse the tide of extinction of pohutukawa and rata, did us all a great service.
So much of what is good in our communities results from the efforts of people who are prepared to step up and do something for the good of the wider community. Accordingly, I am pleased to have this opportunity to thank them, you for your vision, your hard work and the good results you have achieved.
I am also delighted to note that the battle has largely been won for most species of pohutukawa and rata.
An important part of the work we are celebrating tonight has been pest control. Pest control is critical in protecting our native trees while they become established.
I want to acknowledge the late Sir Paul Callaghan for his vision for us to eliminate predators from our forests by 2040. Sir Paul likened this mission as New Zealand’s Apollo Programme – requiring focus and determination in order to succeed. In his mind, we could get there, if we put our mind to it.
As he said: “we cannot wait for someone else to organize this – we all have to become involved”.
The people here tonight have shown what is possible when people become involved. In saving the pohutukawa, you have not only helped rid our forests of pests, but your work has probably encouraged others to think about conserving our environment and becoming involved themselves.
I also applaud the work you have been doing to encourage our schools to get involved by planting and caring for native trees and shrubs. If we can get the country’s young minds to care about our precious flora and fauna, we will have a better chance of winning our ecological battles in the future.
We need to capture the public’s imagination about the possibilities of change and what individuals can do to make a conservation difference. That is why I am delighted to host you conservation heroes. I hope that other New Zealanders will be inspired to work as you have done.
Congratulations to Project Crimson on reaching this 25 year milestone and for doing so much to save and preserve pohutukawa, rata and other native flora for our future generations.
Keep up your good work in our communities, in our schools and especially in our forests. Your commitment is precious.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa