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. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen from throughout the “motu” warm greetings to you all.
I specifically acknowledge: Your Worship Celia-Wade Brown, Mayor of Wellington – tēnā koe, and by tele-conference, Your Worship Wayne Brown, Mayor of Far North District at Cape Reinga, and Your Worship Tim Shadbolt, Mayor of Invercargill at Bluff – tēnā kōrua; Roger Wilson and Geoff Chapple, Chair and Chief Executive respectively of the Te Araroa Trust – tena kōrua; our MC and former Mayor of Waitakere, Bob Harvey – tēnā koe; kaumatua Sam Jackson, nga mihi ki a koe; representatives of Te Papa Atawhai - the Department of Conservation – kia ora koutou.
I thank you for inviting me to assist with the opening of Te Araroa—the Long Pathway - here at Island Bay. As Governor-General I am honoured to be joining with Mayor Wade-Brown, Mayor Shadbolt and Mayor Brown to open the completed Te Araroa trail, and to do that here at its centre. Before I unveil the plaque to mark this occasion, I would like to speak of the significance of Te Araroa.
The Long Pathway is special. It is distinct because it links New Zealanders with a special part of our heritage; and a love of our country and its diverse landscapes, and the history of this place Aotearoa – New Zealand. Long before the time of modern transportation, New Zealanders got to know their land by walking our land. For Māori, trails were created as a means of travel, communication, trade and protecting the land over which they were guardians.
Such is the nature of New Zealand’s terrain that until the completion of the North Island Main Trunk Railway in 1908, the quickest way to travel the length of our country, was to sail around it rather than walk it. Urbanisation and the advent of trains, cars and planes added to us losing our sense of New Zealand as a place to explore on foot.
Fifty-one years ago, however, one of the founders of New Zealand’s modern publishing industry, Sir Alfred Hamish Reed, better known as A.H. Reed, set about to change all that.
In 1960, as an 85-year-old, Reed, walked the length of New Zealand from North Cape to Bluff. The following year he walked from East Cape to Cape Egmont.
His journeys, captured vividly in books recounting the places he visited and the people he met, caused a sensation. Newspapers covered his ambling travels, people clapped him on, and offered him morning and afternoon teas. And along the way, school children gathered to hear unforgettable tales from this early hiking pioneer.
Reed’s journeys recaptured more than just New Zealanders’ imagination for the beauty of our land. His journeys recaptured New Zealanders’ desire to walk their own land. As Reed himself said: “I knew I wanted to travel leisurely on foot through the whole length of our favoured land.”
Although Reed walked almost entirely on roads, his travels ignited a slow burning call for something more—an off-road walking trail the length of New Zealand. After lobbying from the Federated Mountain Clubs in the 1960s, the New Zealand Walkways Commission was established in 1975. Unfortunately, the vision of the long trail—stretching the length of New Zealand—remained unrealised when the Commission was abolished 15 years later.
The vision was taken up by journalist Geoff Chapple. In an article in the Sunday Star-Times in 1994, despairing of high unemployment and complaints about New Zealand’s direction, he proposed the creation of a walkway from Cape Reinga to Bluff. In a practical sense, he saw it as a means of getting people into worthwhile work and as a focus for volunteers. From a visionary perspective, he saw it as a means of uniting New Zealanders behind a greater purpose.
Optimistically, Geoff suggested it could be finished in five years. Well, 17 years later, he’s made it, we’ve made it!
And what an accomplishment! A trail that runs the length of mainland New Zealand from Cape Reinga to Bluff. It is a 3000km hike, encompassing cities, towns, volcanoes, farms, forests and mountain ranges. The overwhelming majority is off road and I’m sure the Trust will be working to add even more.
I want to congratulate everyone who has been involved in bringing this vision to fruition. To the donors and sponsors, the national and regional Te Araroa Trusts, the local councils and the central government, the thousands of volunteers and workers who got stuck in and created the track I say: good on you - well done and thank you. Together you have created a trail that literally links New Zealanders to our heritage, our land and our peoples.
I would like to conclude with a quote from a poem, Papatuanuku, by the late Ngāpuhi poet, Hone Tuwhare. The poem reflects Tuwhare’s love for the land as he set out on the 1975 land rights hikoi, and encapsulates how most New Zealanders feel about our country’s beauty, scenery and terrain. He wrote:
We are stroking, caressing the spine of the land.
We are massaging the ricked back of the land with our sore but ever-loving feet.
Hell, she loves it!
Squirming, the land wriggles in delight.
We love her.
And on that note, it gives me great pleasure to declare Te Araroa—The Long Pathway, officially open. Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.