Kei āku nui,
kei āku rahi
rau Rangatira mā.
Kotahi te kākaho, ka whati
ki te kāpuia, e kore e whati.
I begin my korero this evening with a tongi from King Tawhiao, which can be translated as ‘Alone we can be broken. Standing together, we are invincible’.
As Patron of the Waitangi National Trust Board, it’s a privilege to welcome a gathering of people representing so many significant spheres of influence in Aotearoa.
Whatever our roles and responsibilities, we will be thinking of fellow New Zealanders who have not come through recent storms unscathed – and particularly those who have lost loved ones in the floodwaters.
I appreciate the efforts of people here tonight who have been involved in responding to these extreme weather events.
Given the multiple challenges and uncertainties of the past few years, it is gratifying to take part in the Waitangi commemorations again, as Governor-General, Commander-in-Chief and Patron of the Waitangi National Trust.
The Trust is a legacy of one of my predecessors, Lord Bledisloe.
When he purchased these grounds and gifted them to the nation in 1932, the Trust was established as kaitiaki of the site.
Bledisloe wanted New Zealanders to know more about their history. He would be pleased to know the Treaty Grounds have become a destination for people wanting to understand our history, and how we live with it today.
The Trust has overseen and steered the evolution of the Treaty Grounds – from a farm with a semi-derelict house – to an impressive complex of facilities.
The first major addition, Te Whare Runanga, represents the mana of iwi Māori across Aotearoa. I was privileged to speak there on Friday.
The Museum has become a further taonga on the site, providing information and experiences to inform debate and interrogation of our Treaty relationship.
And this most recent addition, Te Rau Aroha has meant so much to veterans and families of the Māori defence personnel whose story is told here.
For me, returning to Waitangi is also a precious opportunity to reconnect with ancestral whenua and whānau, who, like me, whakapapa to rangatira who signed Te Tiriti.
When we remember those who went before, we are mindful of our responsibilities to uphold their vision and do what we can for future generations.
Tonight, I hope you will join me in celebrating the kotahitanga that brings us together at Waitangi, to debate and discuss, to learn, and to think about our obligations as Treaty partners.
‘He hono tangata e kore e motu; ka pa he taura waka e motu’ – this whakatauki reminds us that ‘unlike a canoe rope, a human bond cannot be severed’.
I thank the members of the Waitangi National Trust Board and staff for your dedication and focus, and wish everyone here all the very best for the challenges in the year ahead.