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.
David and I are delighted to be here today to share in your 150th birthday celebrations and to recognise the contribution of science, technology, the social sciences and the humanities to Aotearoa/New Zealand.
The Royal Society - Te Aparangi has helped to drive 150 years of intellectual inquiry. It has worked to disseminate the findings to the wider community, and it has been an independent voice on a wide range of issues of the day, drawing on expert advice.
In your long history, there have been some notable Vice-regal connections, beginning with Governor George Grey – who was briefly President of the New Zealand Society, an early incarnation of the Royal Society, in 1851.
Governor Grey must have been very much at home with the 19th century polymaths and gentlemen amateurs who were engaged in observing and describing the flora, fauna, and geology of the country that they had chosen to make their home.
In Sir George’s case, he contributed scholarship in Māori language, culture and myths, and a keen interest in botany.
Lord Bledisloe, Governor-General in the 1930s, was interested in the practical application of science to farming and manufacturing, as well as the indigenous plants and trees to be found in our forests.
During his term of office, the New Zealand Institute became the Royal Society. Lord Bledisloe declined the opportunity to be on its Council because he would have powers over its legislation; so he chose to be Patron instead.
A 1960s Governor-General, Sir Bernard Fergusson, was also an enthusiastic supporter.
He spoke of meeting Elsdon Best and Te Rangi Hiroa in the 1920s when his father, Sir Charles Fergusson was Governor-General.
Sir Bernard attended the Royal Society centenary celebrations in 1967, and on his departure from New Zealand said “If I have been in any way able to give a fair wind to the Royal Society, I shall feel amply rewarded”.
Fifty years later, I hope that in my role as Patron, that I too can play a part in promoting your goals and increasing public awareness and appreciation of research and innovation in New Zealand.
Since Sir Bernard’s day, the Governor-General’s role has expanded to include a fairly substantial overseas component – as well as contact with an increasing number of diplomatic representatives and visiting Heads of State to New Zealand.
On such occasions, I am pleased to discuss what I have learned from the outstanding New Zealanders that I am privileged to meet in this role.
I am happy to be, in some small way, one of your ‘science and technology communicators’ here and overseas. At the same time, I will continue to be an enthusiastic promoter of our arts and culture, and I am pleased to see the re-integration of the social sciences and humanities into the Royal Society Te Aparangi in recent years.
During my term in office, I am promoting creativity, innovation, diversity and leadership. I am sure that this audience will agree that these are key to developing our potential for a prosperous and sustainable future.
Sir Ernest Rutherford, our most famous scientist – and a wonderful science communicator – maintained that “a well-constructed theory is in some respects undoubtedly an artistic production”.
Creativity, innovation and leadership are part of your kaupapa, and as one of your recent Presidents, David Skegg observed, the Royal Society’s strength is its diversity.
The Society’s top honour, appropriately named the Rutherford Medal, acknowledges exceptional contributions to New Zealand society and culture through activities in the broad fields of science, mathematics, social science, and technology.
It is my privilege to present the Rutherford Medal to this year’s winner, who is from the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington. I would like you all to stand and give a round of applause to Professor Colin Wilson.