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Speech

State Farewell Luncheon

Issue date: 
Wednesday, 24 August 2016
Speaker: 
Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO

Rau rangatira ma, e kui ma, e koro ma, e huihui mai nei – tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou tēnā tātou katoa.  Mihi mai ki taku whanau kua whakaeke nei, me taku hoa rangatira – Kahurangi Janine.  Te manawhenua o Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Taranaki Whānui me Ngāti Toa, tena koutou.  Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen greetings to you all.  I acknowledge your welcome to my family and to my wife – Janine.

I acknowledge the presence of the Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key and Mrs Bronagh Key; the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon David Carter; the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Andrew Little; the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, HE O’love Jacobsen and members of the Diplomatic Corps; Chief Justice, Dame Sian Elias; Ministers of the Crown; and Members of Parliament. 

Thank you, Prime Minister and Mr Little for your kind words.  Janine and I appreciate the sentiments you have expressed and the support we have received over the past five years.  Mr Key, I also thank you for the State gift we have received, Bee Doughty-Pratt’s painting - Fractured Light. 

At my swearing-in ceremony in 2011, I spoke about the extraordinary honour that had been bestowed upon us.  At the same time, I acknowledged just a little trepidation about what the next five years might bring.

There wasn’t much time to dwell on those conflicting emotions – because within the first three months of coming into office, we had the Pacific Islands Forum, the Rugby World Cup and an election.  That pace has not let up in the intervening years!

I welcome this opportunity to reflect on our experience of the role I’ve had for the past 1,821 days!

I have tried to reflect some of the significant milestones that New Zealand has marked during our term in my programme of work.  In 2012, the theme for our programme was Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee.  In 2013, 120 years after women’s suffrage in New Zealand, it was “women”.  In 2014, in the lead up to the centenary of the start of the First World War, it was “families and peace”.  In 2015, 175 years after the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, our focus was our “nationhood”.

In 2016, the theme has been “science and innovation - looking to the future”.  This year I have visited our universities, where I saw impressive innovations and research that will benefit New Zealand, and likely also have a global impact – whether it be in medicine, science, robotics, engineering, computer graphics or climate change.

I have visited the realm of New Zealand – Tokelau, Niue and the Cook Islands, and the Sub-Antarctic Islands.  I have seen how unique, how diverse and how stunning the realm of New Zealand is.

Unfortunately I was unable to get to the Antarctic, the Chatham Islands and the Kermadecs.  A dicky heart thwarted our travel to the Antarctic; and even though I volunteered to parachute into the Kermadecs to join the Young Blake expedition, time, commitments and officials frustrated my plans to visit the Kermadecs and Chathams.

It’s through a pre-planned programme of engagements that Governors-General pick up information about a wide range of subjects.  Often when travelling on official business I have been able to talk about what I have seen in our universities and research establishments, on our farms and vineyards, in our factories and businesses – and so contributed to promoting “NZ Inc”.

It has been a privilege to represent New Zealand overseas, whether it be on State Visits; for commemorations including Gallipoli, Cassino and the Normandy landings; at the Olympic or Commonwealth Games; or at funerals for Heads of State. 

When I visited Ethiopia, the first New Zealand Governor-General to do so, I was reminded of the esteem, with which New Zealand is held there, due to our principled stand at the League of Nations against the Italian occupation in 1935.  We were one of only six nations to do so.  It reminded me how firm our country’s reputation remains around the world because of the principled actions of successive generations of New Zealanders and of successive governments of New Zealand.

My overseas visits and the hosting of foreign dignitaries in New Zealand have been supported superbly by officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the New Zealand Defence Force and the Visits and Ceremonial Office.

Highlights

When I was sworn in, I said that I was looking forward to the opportunity of meeting and getting to know people.

We have been privileged to travel the length and breadth of New Zealand, and to engage with New Zealanders.  As we step away from this office, it is friendships and unforgettable encounters that will leave the greatest impression.

New Zealanders have shared with us their experiences - their triumphs, their tragedies, and their dreams.  We have been inspired by their achievements, and the contributions they have made in their communities and for New Zealand.

Some individuals inevitably stand out.  Amongst the world leaders we have met, Pope Francis moved us with his humanity, his sincerity, his humour and the serenity that surrounds him.

Sister Marie, of the Little Sisters of the Poor, is another.  She was awarded a QSM in 2012, recognising her work with the elderly.  She was 98 at the time, and still actively assisting people – many of whom were much younger than she was. 

At her investiture, I was charmed by her compassion, spirit and example.  In April this year, I made sure to visit her in Dunedin to wish her well in her 102nd year.

Then there are the thousands of young people that Janine and I have met all over New Zealand.  They give me cause for great optimism for the future of our country.

We have met young men and women in schools and universities, from service organisations, from the Dingle Foundation and the Young Enterprise Trust, or presenting for Rhodes scholarships and Duke of Edinburgh Hillary Awards.  They have all impressed me with their poise, their creativity and their enterprise.

Going to schools as a Leader for the Sir Peter Blake Trust has enabled me to hear the dreams of younger New Zealanders – for themselves and for New Zealand.  This year I went to Bailey Road School in Mount Wellington, where I asked students to identify their dreams for the future.  I was impressed by one young man who wrote that he wanted to be an astrophysicist and find a new planet where mankind can survive.  You can’t get much more aspirational – indeed inspirational – than that!

During our term there have been some significant anniversaries for the people of New Zealand: the 175th anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi; the 150th anniversary commemorations of the New Zealand Wars; the centenary of the First World War; the 75th anniversaries of significant Second World War battles. 

I have learned much about what New Zealanders have achieved and about the things we can celebrate.  Equally, the commemorative events have been poignant moments for reflection about suffering, loss and sacrifice.

No more so than on the Gallipoli Peninsula – at Anzac Cove and Chunuk Bair.  Like many New Zealanders, I have only recently found out more about my own family’s military heritage – what part my grandfathers had in the First World War.  As I walked where my koroua – Rawiri Mateparae – had, on the slopes below Chunuk Bair, the huge challenges that our soldiers faced during that ill-fated campaign, and an appreciation of their courage, commitment, comradeship and sacrifice became very personal.

There have also been occasions for us to celebrate the strength of our bonds with Australia.  For me, our shared ANZAC heritage was brought to the fore most clearly in 2015.  On the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, I stood side-by-side with my Australian counterpart, General Hon Sir Peter Cosgrove, at Pukeahu for the Dawn Service in Wellington, and later that day for the evening service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

The Office of Governor-General is one that can create opportunities.  There are three that stand out for me.  First, is the increased number of New Zealanders who now visit Government House through a new Visitors’ Centre and events such citizenship ceremonies on Waitangi Day and at Matariki.  Second, is the establishment of an Artist in Residence Programme at Government House – Matairangi Mahi Toi – together with Massey University focussing on Māori and Pasifika visual artists.  Third has been the sessions we have hosted, including one on youth suicide, particularly Māori and Pasifika, and another to forge a Covenant for how we should nurture our nation’s children.

Representing the Queen of New Zealand has added an unforgettable dimension to our lives.  In addition to meeting Her Majesty several times during our term, we have had the extraordinary experience of hosting – at Government House – the first in line to the throne, and the second, third and fifth in line.  Attending Her Majesty’s 90th birthday commemorations in London in June was a memorable finale to that aspect of our role.

I have seen at first-hand that the Palace is intensely conscious of the Sovereign’s role as Head of State in each of Her Majesty’s sixteen Realms.  It has confirmed for me that, like each of the other 15 Realms, we in New Zealand have developed our constitutional arrangements and conventions in our own way, to suit our own character and our own aspirations for our nation.  Our system of constitutional monarchy and representative government has much for us to value.

Expressions of Thanks

During our time at Government House Janine and I have been advised, educated and supported by our kaumātu Lewis Moeau and kuia Dr Hiria Hape.  We have also appreciated the support of a dedicated team at Government House who have helped us manage our time and commitments.  The team has been ably led by our Official Secretary – first Niels Holm and latterly Greg Baughen.  We will be expressing our thanks to our staff in a more personal way before we leave.

On Monday, I attended for the last time a meeting of the Executive Council, and then thanked members of the Executive Council for their support, advice and service.  Equally, I have appreciated the support and counsel provided by the Clerk of the Executive Council – Michael Webster and before him Rebecca Kitteridge – and the team in the Cabinet Office. 

The constant and unconditional support of Janine, our family and our friends have been crucial for me in my role as the Governor-General.  I endorse Janine’s comments regarding our children, their spouses and the boys’ girlfriends; and Janine’s parents Graeme and Helen; and our extended family and our friends.

When we decided to take on this role, Janine and I resolved we would work at it together – and we have.  Matching the demands of our lives – of family occasions and official commitments – has been a challenge at times.  Thankfully Janine has managed that superbly. 

Prime Minister, let me thank you for the honour you have bestowed on Janine today.  Janine has supported me in all of the roles I’ve had.  At Government House, she has readily taken on additional tasks, spoken to and engaged with New Zealanders in a variety of settings and shown she is pretty good at what she sets her mind to do!  And so, Janine, thank you.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the overwhelming support and kindness shown to us by the people of New Zealand over the last five years, and to wish our successors – Dame Patsy Reddy and Sir David – all the very best as they come into this special role.

Future

Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen Janine and I have experienced much, learned a lot about how New Zealand is perceived by others and been privileged to represent Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in New Zealand and to have also represented New Zealand and New Zealanders to the rest of the world. 

Looking ahead, I will soon become part of a select group – the ex-Governors-General Corps – presided over by its venerable Dean, Dame Cath Tizard.

In July, we had lunch with Dame Cath and several of our predecessors – Lady Norma Beattie, Lady Beverley Reeves, Dame Silvia Cartwright and Peter and Sir Anand Satyanand and Lady Susan.  They shared some tips with us for life after Government House.  And unlike when we were coming into this role, there is little trepidation about what lies ahead.

I will finish off, as I did at my swearing-in five years ago by saying - Ki a koutou, te Matua.  Māu e tiaki (Father.  Protect us).

Last updated: 
Wednesday, 24 August 2016

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