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Governor-General’s Waitangi Day address to the Diplomatic Corps, Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Your Excellencies, members of the Diplomatic Corps, spouses and partners – tēnā koutou katoa, my very warmest welcome to this afternoon’s Waitangi Day luncheon.

I wish to specifically acknowledge rangatira of the Waitangi National Trust in attendance, who act as guardians and ambassadors of these beautiful grounds and all that they represent.

I also acknowledge Rachel Hayward, Secretary of the Cabinet and Clerk of the Executive Council; Joe Harawira, Kaumātua; Rānui Ngārimu, Kuia; and all our distinguished guests gathered here today.

I understand that this is the first time the Diplomatic Corps has been hosted by a Governor-General at the Treaty Grounds on Waitangi Day, along with the Waitangi National Trust.

This is a historic moment – and one that I hope provides members of our Diplomatic Corps an opportunity to kōrero with rangatira who possess such a deep understanding of the history and significance of this special place.

I know many of you have been to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds before, but I wish to offer a special welcome to those visiting for the first time – including those four ambassadors whose credentials I had the pleasure of receiving just a few days ago. I also welcome those who have travelled here from embassies overseas.

I hope you enjoyed the experience of your pōwhiri at Te Whare Rūnanga on Sunday. I am told that the whaikōrero, the speeches, were delivered in the spirit of mana manaaki – upholding the dignity of that sacred place. I am also informed that your singing is up to the usual high standard we have come to expect of our Diplomatic Corps.

The Governor-General’s traditional Waitangi Day gathering has previously been known as the Bledisloe Reception, in honour of one of my predecessors, Lord Bledisloe.

It was Lord Bledisloe, in his own generosity and foresight, who purchased these grounds on behalf of New Zealand – understanding, as he did, their central place in the history of this nation.

Today holds particular significance, as it was ninety years ago, on Waitangi Day 1934, that Lord Bledisloe formally gifted these grounds back to the people of New Zealand.

In his speech on that day, he expressed his ‘fervent hope and prayer that peace, harmony, and righteousness may always reign within these walls.’

Today’s historic luncheon reminds us that though Te Tiriti o Waitangi/the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between two peoples – tangata whenua and tangata tiriti – it has come to touch a great many more.

Our country is blessed with the taonga, the treasures, of te reo and te ao Māori, as well as with the languages and cultures of all those who have made this country their home.

One of the great joys and privileges of serving as Governor-General has been sharing in some of the celebrations observed by New Zealand’s diverse communities – and which have become so beautifully woven into the fabric of New Zealand society.

We have a whakataukī, or Māori proverb, which says: ‘Kotahi te kōhao o te ngira e kuhuna ai te miro mā, te miro pango, te miro whero. Ā muri, kia mau ki te whakapono, kia mau ki ngā ture, kia mau ki te aroha. There is but one eye of the needle through which must pass the white thread, the black thread, and the red thread. Hold fast to faith, hold fast to the laws, hold fast to the love.’

As ambassadors, you not only embody the bonds of friendship between New Zealand and the countries you represent – you also serve as vital touchpoints for so many families and communities here in New Zealand, and I wish to thank you for the manaakitanga and whanaungatanga, the care and compassion, with which you carry out your roles.

It was another of my predecessors, and another of New Zealand’s great statesmen, Sir Paul Reeves, who said: ‘Unity is not oneness. Unity encompasses difference. The search for unity is an invitation not to fear, but to explore what is not familiar.’

It is my hope that such kotahitanga, such unity, as Sir Paul conceived it, can be our guiding principle as we navigate these times – and it was in that spirit of kotahitanga that my own ancestors signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi, here, on these grounds, 184 years ago.

In doing so, New Zealand’s forebears gave us something to treasure: a model for principled action over time, urging us to expand our moral imaginations, and to match virtuous ideals with courageous action.

I hope that your time here in Waitangi may provide inspiration to you all as you continue to carry out your important work. And when the time comes for you to move on from your postings – whether back home, or elsewhere around the world – I hope you always remember this special place and all that it stands for.

Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.

 

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