Greetings to you all who have gathered here on Waitangi Day. As we gather we reflect upon our country, Aotearoa - New Zealand. And also ourselves, the many nationalities of our country. And so welcome to you all, welcome to Government House.
As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, this Waitangi Day is a time to pause and ask ourselves where we want to be in ten years’ time.
Much will depend on the choices we make, and the speed with which we implement them.
In 1990, one of my predecessors, Sir Paul Reeves commented on the environmental issues New Zealand was facing at the time.
He talked about ‘the current agonies of the earth’ and nature ‘presenting its bill’ to humanity for our careless exploitation of the natural world.
Thirty years later, it’s fair to say that nature’s bill has accrued compound interest – and we’re still trying to work out how to wipe the slate clean.
Our soil and water continue to degrade, much of our flora and fauna faces the threat of extinction, and we’re experiencing the impacts of the climate crisis and rising sea levels.
Sir Paul called for action with this whakatauki:
E noho ana te mana o te iwi kei ringa i tēnei waka
“It’s our responsibility to bring the canoe safely to the shore”.
We’ve got what it takes to bring our waka into safe harbour. We’ve led the world before with reforms, and the signs are there that we can do so again.
Young New Zealanders are standing in the prow or taking the tiller – encouraging us to shift our course to better weather the storms ahead.
We’re fortunate to have some of our best brains dedicated to finding innovative solutions and there’s a groundswell of support for efforts to clean up waterways, plant trees, and restore ecosystems.
In our schools, businesses, and communities more of us are taking steps to reduce our waste and be more mindful about the way we use our resources; and we are starting to make lifestyle changes to reduce our carbon emissions.
We, the people of Aotearoa New Zealand, have the means – and increasingly the focus and the will – to truly earn the right to call our nation ‘clean and green’.
We are united by our deep attachment to our landscape – and by what Sir Paul referred to as ‘the intangibles’ that bind a nation – goodwill, patience, trust, a desire for justice, and a desire to live together.
In other words, the qualities that we expect of honourable Treaty partners.
Te Tiriti’s promises are an expression of hope that we can work together through our difficulties, listen to each other and develop greater understanding.
There will be a quantum leap in such understanding over the next 10 years, when a generation of New Zealand children will learn about the history of their country as part of the school curriculum.
Their knowledge and understanding will inform and elevate future discussions about the Treaty of Waitangi and what it stands for in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Te Tiriti will be embedded in the national consciousness as our lodestone with which to measure the interactions of Treaty partners.
Over the next decade, more of us will learn Te reo Māori, more Māori kupu will become part of everyday interactions, and there will be a deeper commitment to core values that resonate with our responsibilities as Treaty partners and as global citizens.
Two concepts - kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga - are already part of our national project of renewal.
This is an example of how our Tiriti relationship provides a foundation to learn from each partners’ respective systems of knowledge or matauranga, in this instance from te Ao Māori, to the benefit of Aotearoa New Zealand as a whole.
At its heart kaitiakitanga is an understanding that human beings are part of the natural world, and utterly dependent on its wellbeing for our very survival. It is wisdom that has been learnt from costly mistakes in the past.
Resources are regarded not as something to be exploited for short-term gain, but rather as something to be managed carefully for the use of future generations.
Kaitiaki take care to learn about the environment they live in. They take care about what they put into it, and what they extract from it. It’s a concept which resonates with our increasing commitment to sustainability.
Manaakitanga, often translated as an obligation to act with kindness, compassion and caring for others – helped us through the aftermath of two tragedies in 2019 – in March, after the horrific terrorist attack in Christchurch – and in December, following the eruption that killed and maimed visitors to Whakaari White Island.
In both cases, manaakitanga – whether by emergency first responders, bystanders on the spot, community members, or members of the local marae – all played a part in helping the bereaved and wounded and a sorrowful nation work through our grief and shock.
Embedded in this word are two very powerful concepts – mana and aki – to encourage or support. When we extend manaakitanga, we are therefore recognising and encouraging the mana of others.
Manaakitanga is most meaningful when it is extended on a daily basis, when we acknowledge the humanity that unites us and our duty of care to make sure that our actions do no harm.
It’s what prompts our volunteers to give their time and resources to people in need.
It’s in the act of sharing what we have with those who lack what they need.
It’s an extension of the aroha we give to our family and friends.
As human beings, our attitudes and behaviours are dictated by our values. Kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga will help us do what is necessary to achieve the Aotearoa New Zealand of 2030 that we want: a country where our flora and fauna can flourish, and where our citizens can prosper and thrive, no matter what their background is.
On this Waitangi Day, I hope all New Zealanders will embrace the opportunity to bring about that transformation – so that on Waitangi Day in 2030, the Governor-General of the day can look back at what has been achieved and join fellow New Zealanders in celebrating that our waka has indeed reached safe harbour.
No reira, mā whero, mā pango, ka oti te mahi.
And so, it takes many together to complete the task.