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.
Good evening everyone and welcome to this reception to celebrate the arrival of the Queen’s Baton in the South Island.
I can’t imagine a more spectacular starting point for this leg of its New Zealand journey.
As Her Majesty the Queen’s representative in New Zealand, I was very happy to briefly be a baton-bearer at the airport this morning – especially as it didn’t involve doing several laps around a stadium.
A previous Governor-General, Sir Arthur Porritt would have taken on such a challenge, because in his youth, he just happened to be a world-class sprinter, winning a bronze medal in the 1924 Paris Olympic Games.
Sir Arthur went on to be an international member of the Olympic Committee from 1934 to 1967 and he also managed New Zealand teams at various Games, before becoming our first New Zealand-born Governor-General.
His story featured in the film Chariots of Fire – though he insisted that the name of his character be changed to ‘Tom Watson’ because of fears that the film might impact on his medical career.
A more recent Governor-General, Sir David Beattie was President of the New Zealand Olympic Committee for 11 years, and a keen tennis player and golfer.
I may not have those sporting credentials, but something I do have in common with both of those Governors-General is a keen and abiding interest in sports.
In my first year in office, David and I turned the lawns at both Government Houses into temporary sports fields for children to come and have ball-skills sessions with All Black and Black Ferns players.
We will be delighted to be New Zealand’s official representatives at the Gold Coast Games, and hope that my schedule allows me to see the Women’s Sevens team play for the first time in a Commonwealth Games.
Her Majesty The Queen is well-known for her dedication to the Commonwealth, which now includes about one-third of the world’s population.
Several Commonwealth countries were not part of the original British Empire, and their desire to become members is a testament to the Commonwealth Charter’s commitment to such values as human rights, peace, the rule of law, sustainable development and gender equality.
Since becoming Governor-General, I have been privileged to be involved in two initiatives that honour Her Majesty’s promotion of Commonwealth values.
Last year I went to Mt Lyford to mark the inclusion of part of a property in the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy – a network of protected forest areas around the world.
The second was the unveiling of a plaque outside Government House Wellington, on Wellington’s Commonwealth Walkway. This international initiative encourages people to walk and explore their environment.
The Commonwealth Games is the most high-profile Commonwealth event, a highlight on the calendar, and I am pleased to support New Zealand’s participation here tonight.
Tomorrow, as the Queen’s baton is taken on its journey, New Zealanders will be reminded of our links with the countries it has already visited – and our links to its final resting place, Australia.
We wish all the baton-bearers well, and we wish our athletes who are training hard for selection all the very best with their endeavours.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa and please enjoy your evening.