E ngā rangatira o te Taitokerau, tena koutou.
Otira, tena tatau katoa e hui nei, ki Waitangi, i tenei rā, ka nui te mihi.
E tika ana, kia puritia, kia whakanuia, ngā kaupapa nui, o Waitangi.
Hoake tatau katoa, me te aroha, tētahi ki tētahi.
Today, as we gather here at the birthplace of our nation and our Treaty partnership, it’s clear why one of my predecessors, Lord Bledisloe, was moved to purchase this property and gift it to the people of New Zealand.
In his view, knowledge of our history was invaluable. It would inform our actions in the present and our decisions about the future.
It’s a sentiment that is consistent with te ao Māori, as expressed in the whakatauki:
Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua
We must be mindful of the past as we walk into the future.
A sense of history is never far away in this region, and I had occasion to be reminded of it in November last year, when I visited the Oceania exhibition in London.
There were astonishing, beautiful taonga from around the Pacific on display, but one particular exhibit stood out for me – and no doubt for many other visitors.
It consisted of two exquisite carvings, placed side by side.
The first, Tāngonge, is from Te Rarawa. It was carved in the 14th century, and is known as the Kaitaia carving.
The other was carved centuries later in Tahiti, and was gifted to Captain Cook on his first voyage to the Pacific Ocean.
These two taonga were brought together for the first time in the Oceania exhibition, and the similarities between them were remarkable.
Here was proof – if any were needed – that voyages between Aotearoa and Polynesia didn’t stop after the first arrivals here in the 13th century – but continued long afterwards.
In a few minutes’ time, it will be my privilege to honour a man who has done much to reconnect Aotearoa with that history of Polynesian voyaging: Sir Hekenukumai Busby.
Sir Hec Busby has his own special connection to this place.
At the time of the Treaty signing, the British Resident James Busby owned this property. When Sir Hec’s tipuna, Teripi Temaru became a Christian, James Busby became his godfather, and bequeathed him his surname.
Sir Hec’s investiture will, of course, also be in front of this wharenui that represents the tangata whenua of Aotearoa.
This is highly appropriate, given Sir Hec played a huge role in reviving the voyaging tradition of waka hourua in Aotearoa.
These waka carried Polynesian culture from its origins in the western Pacific as far east as Easter Island, as far north as Hawaii, and as far south as Aotearoa. They are at the heart of the voyaging histories of individual iwi.
In addition to the construction of these craft, Sir Hec has been responsible for training waka crews to use stars and ocean currents to navigate across those same vast distances, much as their forebears did.
His dedication and achievements have earned Sir Hec one of our nation’s highest honours – a knighthood – which is granted with the consent of our Head of State, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
Last February when I visited Kaitaia, Sir Hec made sure that he was there to greet me at Te Ahu. It was the beginning of an inspiring and memorable day.
I saw evidence of new energy in joint partnerships between government agencies, local government, the private sector and iwi, which are harnessing local energy, talent and resources.
More New Zealanders are coming to the Bay of Islands to connect with our history, including the history of the Treaty relationship.
Thank you, Sir Hec, for helping to reconstruct an earlier chapter of that history for us all, and thereby making sure that it will be part of the story yet to come.
Koia nei te whakatōmuri, o te haere whakamua.
Kia ora tatau katoa.