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Queen Elizabeth II Pukeahu Education Centre Opening

Issue date: 
Wednesday, 17 August 2016
Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO

He wehi ki te Atua.  He maungārongo ki te whenua.  He whakaaro pai ki ngā tāngata katoa.  Tihei mauri ora!

E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga iwi o nga hau e wha, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou.  Kia ora tātou katoa.  Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen I extend warm greetings to all who are gathered here.

I specifically acknowledge: The Rt Hon John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand; Hon Maggie Barry, the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage; other Ministers of the Crown; Members of Parliament; Her Worship Celia Wade-Brown, Mayor of Wellington; Sr Margaret Anne Mills and the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion – tēnā koutou katoa.

I am delighted to join with you today to open the Queen Elizabeth II Pukeahu Education Centre.  This year, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday year, has been a time to rejoice in the relationship between Her Majesty, as the Queen of New Zealand, and her family, and all New Zealanders.  We have also had cause to think about the nature – enduring and evolving – of the linkages we have with the United Kingdom. 

As Queen Elizabeth’s representative in New Zealand, I have been privileged to support those relationships.  Janine and I have enjoyed hosting the first in line to the throne, and the second, third and the fifth in line, at Government House.  And now, as one of my final acts in this role, and just a few months after my final audience with Her Majesty, I am delighted to be able to open a building named in Her Majesty’s honour. 

I have been informed that school students who visit Pukeahu - our National Memorial Park – leave it with a stronger sense of connection to our heritage and their community.  This Education Centre can only add further depth to that experience.  

Since 2012, we have regularly hosted school children through our Visitor Centre at Government House.  There, they learn about our modern history and constitutional development, the role of Governors-General and New Zealand’s status as a Commonwealth Realm.  These things are fundamental to understanding what it means to be a New Zealand citizen. 

My hope is that this Education Centre will motivate our younger visitors to become knowledgeable, committed and passionate citizens of New Zealand - New Zealanders who want to actively participate in our democratic and multi-cultural society.

Equally, it is important for New Zealanders to know something of our military heritage, to understand the impact of armed conflict on our families and communities, and to be able to honour all those who have served our country – and especially those who lost their lives in the service of our country. 

Here, current and future generations can learn about what has shaped New Zealand – our experiences of conflict and peacekeeping, including the six major wars and conflicts from South Africa to Afghanistan.  They will learn of where we have served with others, how we have reconciled with former foe and get some sense of our place in the wider world.

As they reflect on the past, they will learn how Pukeahu – the ‘sacred hill’ – has witnessed and undergone incredible change.  When I look at the gardens dedicated to iwi on either side of the memorial steps, it conjures images of terraced gardens of kumara in pre-colonial times.  I am reminded that this place links us to a time before 1840.

Similarly, the buildings in this precinct resonate with historical significance and have their stories to tell. 

This building, formerly The Home of Compassion Crèche, was built in 1914, under the leadership of a remarkable woman, Mother Aubert.  Her example provides inspiration to this day. 

We remember her as a woman of compassion.  Her social concern was channelled into areas as diverse as Māori mission work, and the care of sick children, the elderly and the infirm.  The crèche here was one of the first infant day-care facilities in New Zealand.  Mother Aubert’s initiative was very much ahead of the times. 

In one of those serendipitous instances, it is poignant that the year of Mother Aubert’s death, 1926, was also the year of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s birth, which adds another layer to the connective story of this place. 

This facility is a fitting way to acknowledge the mana of both Mother Aubert and Queen Elizabeth, and their legacy of service, kind-heartedness and interest in young people.

In addition, the Queen Elizabeth II Pukeahu Education Centre provides an important structure – physical and spiritual - to embrace the Pukeahu experience, and to enhance our experience in a place of remembrance, reconciliation, honour and aspiration for all New Zealanders.

Last updated: 
Wednesday, 17 August 2016

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