Governor-General’s Waitangi Day Address

Ko te amorangi ki mua

Ko te hāpai ō ki muri

Ko te atua tōku piringa,

Ka puta, ka ora

Ki te whei-āo,

Ki te ao marama: Pai Marire!


It is my great pleasure and privilege to speak on this, my first Waitangi Day as Governor-General.

The 6th of February is our day of national reflection and celebration. It is also the day, 70 years ago, that a young woman of just 25 ascended the throne and became our new Queen.

There will be many more opportunities this Platinum Jubilee year to speak about Queen Elizabeth II’s extraordinary life of service.

Today, I wish only to emphasise my immense pride, as a wāhine Māori of British and Ngāpuhi descent, to serve as Her Majesty’s representative in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Though we cannot observe Waitangi Day together at the Treaty Grounds this year, I am grateful for this opportunity to reach so many of you around the country.

I wish to begin by acknowledging the sacrifices New Zealanders have made in response to COVID-19, and especially those who have borne the burden and responsibility of keeping us safe.

But we have shown what is possible when we work together for each other’s wellbeing, and when we place our trust in the knowledge of experts.

And I am full of hope for a future of collective wellbeing and prosperity.

I understand that for many communities, the experience of COVID-19 recalls the painful losses of the 1918 influenza pandemic.

COVID-19 has again reminded us of the burdens and privileges of citizenship: the duty of care and respect we share as New Zealanders.

That was also the message handed down to us by our forefathers who signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi. It is our nation’s great leveller – a moral and social contract that binds us all equally.

When I think of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, I hear my Ngāpuhi grandmother’s words: ‘The Treaty is a sacred covenant between two peoples.’

I believe she meant that Te Tiriti is something to honour, respect, and promote as a standard for principled action over time, and her words have guided my thinking on the Treaty ever since.

As with the sacred covenant of marriage, the vows made at the outset do not end there. Rather, those vows provide the foundation of a lasting commitment.

Throughout our history, we have not always done right by the commitment made by our ancestors 182 years ago.

And while we cannot change our past, we can draw wisdom from it. We can see the Treaty, not as a burden, but as a gift, because it compels us to consider and respect our differences, and to match virtuous ideals with courageous action.

The Treaty was signed between two peoples, but it has come to touch a great many more.

Ours is a country made rich and distinctive by te ao Māori, as well as by the culture of all those who have chosen to make these islands their home.

This is one of the great joys of life in Aotearoa New Zealand: to share and celebrate cultures other than our own. And it brings me immense pleasure to see the growth in our celebration of the Chinese New Year, Diwali, Eid ul-Fitr, among so many others.

It was Pōtatau Te Wherowhero who said: ‘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.’

During my five years as Governor-General, I look forward to better knowing and understanding New Zealand through its people: tangata whenua and tangata tiriti.

I look forward to hearing the stories of those who have lived here for generations, and others, who are just starting their journey as New Zealanders.

I look forward to sharing in the hopes and dreams of our young people, who are our future, and those who act as kaitiaki for our natural environment.

I anticipate, through all who I meet, that my own understanding of Te Tiriti, and those words of my grandmother’s, will continue to evolve and grow.

Each year, on this day, I will stand before you to reflect on what I’ve learnt, and what we can continue to learn from each other, as we strive to do right by our forefathers, and by our fellow citizens.

The late Keri Hulme wrote: ‘They were nothing more than people, by themselves… But all together, they have become the heart and muscles and mind of something perilous and new, something strange and growing and great. Together, all together, they are the instruments of change.’

I feel confident that, together, we can be those instruments of continuous change for the better, and fulfil the extraordinary challenge we were set, 182 years ago – to uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi, our sacred covenant.

The Treaty asks the very best of us. It asks, simply, that we be there for one another – and I believe that is something we can all commit to on our national day, and in all the days that follow.

Kia hora te marino,

Kia whakapapa pounamu te moana,

Kia tere te kārohirohi

I mua i tō huarahi.

May peace be widespread,

May the sea glisten like the greenstone,

And may the shimmer of light

Guide you on your way.

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