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Whakaari Commemoration

Issue date: 
Thursday, 10 December 2020
The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, CVO, QSO

Ngāti Awa ki te rangi, Ngāti Awa ki te whenua, Ngāti Awa tāngata

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

Mataatua Whare, te whare haumaru ai, i te tangata,

i te wa, o te pahūtanga o Whakaari.

E tu! E tu!

Nou te karanga o te ra, kia tau mai ahau, i runga i te aroha

No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa.


I specifically acknowledge the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern; Hon Peeni Henare, Minister of the Crown

Other Ministers of the Crown and MPs

members of the Diplomatic Corps;

Her Worship Judy Turner, Mayor of Whakatane and

Joe Harawira, Chairman of Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa.

And a special welcome to everyone joining this gathering from across Aotearoa New Zealand and from overseas.

I offer my sincere thanks to Ngāti Awa for bringing us together in Mataatua, where we can share our sorrow, and draw strength from one another – on this first anniversary of the Whakaari eruption.  I cannot imagine a more fitting, or more beautiful, place for this gathering.

The 9th of December is a dark day in our nation’s history – and also in the family histories of visitors from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, China and Malaysia.

To the families of the 22 people who lost their lives as a result of the Whakaari eruption, I extend my deepest condolences, on behalf of all New Zealanders.

Today we acknowledge also the many acts of courage and compassion we witnessed on the 9th of December last year, and in the days that followed.

During what would have seemed like a very long boat journey back to Whakatane, members of the tour group reached out to the injured and dying, providing comfort and relief where they could.

I salute everyone involved in the rescue and recovery operations, including members of our Defence Force, who put themselves in harm’s way and acted with courage and professionalism.

Then there were the heroic efforts of the first responders, the pilots and the paramedics and the many other medical professionals who faced unprecedented challenges, and persevered in their tireless efforts to save lives, on the day of the tragedy and in the many weeks and months that followed.

People in the community stepped forward to help wherever they could.

And Ngāti Awa extended aroha and manaakitanga to families struggling with grief and loss.

This wharenui, Mataatua, became their house of refuge.

The lives of the survivors of the eruption will never be the same. People injured that day have had to draw on all their reserves of strength – physical and emotional – in their commitment to survive months of surgery and rehabilitation.

In 2020, when we look back at all of these responses to this terrible event, we can see parallels with our current circumstances.

This year, every nation has been delivered yet another cruel reminder of human vulnerability in our relationships with the natural world.

It’s a year when we have all been challenged to think beyond ourselves and act for the public good.

The citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand have affirmed that by committing to work together for the wellbeing of others, by acting with courage and kindness – and doing what needs to be done –  we collectively find what we need to get through the most testing of times, as suggested by this whakatauki:

He mea nui te aroha e paihere nei i nga tāngata

ā wairua, ā mauri, ā mana, ā tapu.

[Love for each other is what binds humanity in times of tragedy and grief through our spirit, our essence, our integrity and that which is sacred.]

Last updated: 
Thursday, 10 December 2020

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