State Dinner For Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Rt Hon Helen Clark
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Monday 25 February 2002
E te Ariki, Te Kuini, te Piriniha, me nga rangatira katoa e hui nei, tenei te mihi ki a koutou, nau mai, haere mai ki te Paremata.
Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, Mr Speaker, Ministers, Leader of the Opposition, Parliamentary colleagues, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It is my great pleasure today, on behalf of the people of New Zealand, to welcome Your Majesty and Prince Philip. Last year the tragic events of September 11 led to the postponement of the Royal Visit. We are very pleased now to host this, the tenth, visit by the Queen to New Zealand.
Your Majesty, I extend the sincere sympathy of New Zealanders to you on the loss of your sister, Princess Margaret. Your decision to continue with the visit to us at this sad time for the Royal family is greatly appreciated.
The Golden Jubilee of Your Majesty’s accession to the throne and the Royal Visit create a special moment for us to pause and consider our history together, and in particular the memories and stories of the past fifty years. The date of Your Majesty’s accession in 1952 – February 6 – is one of dual significance to New Zealanders, as it is also the date in 1840 when New Zealand’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed.
The Golden Jubilee enables us to look back over Your Majesty’s fifty years as New Zealand’s head of state. We thank you for your dedicated service as Queen of New Zealand and also your service to us in your capacity as head of the Commonwealth.
While this year we celebrate Your Majesty’s accession to the throne in 1952, the following coronation year, 1953, was also a memorable one.
On May 29 1953, against great odds, one of New Zealand’s best-loved citizens, Edmund Hillary, with Tenzing Norgay, reached the summit of the previously unconquered Mount Everest.
The date of the conquest of Everest was shortly before Your Majesty’s coronation on June 2 1953. In your speech at the state luncheon here in Wellington, some 48 years ago, Your Majesty referred to the “tremendous news” you had received on the eve of the coronation “that one of New Zealand’s sons had climbed to the summit of the highest mountain in the world”.
Your visit in 1953 was the first visit to New Zealand by a reigning monarch. That year you were also formally proclaimed “The Queen of New Zealand”.
Thus Your Majesty and Prince Philip came to New Zealand for five and a half weeks in the summer of 1953/1954. The nation was proud to host you as special guests then as we are now. You will remember the festive atmosphere with flowers and flags along the royal route. Receptions and welcomes were held throughout New Zealand in main streets, at railway stations, and in public parks and squares. The agricultural riches of the country were on display and a special effort was made to enable school children participate in the occasion.
No doubt some of those who waved to you as children are here tonight. Many recall where they stood and waved as the royal party passed by. We have gathered together some of those stories as part of a commemorative exhibition featuring on the New Zealand history internet site operated by our Ministry for Culture and Heritage. As a member of a slightly younger generation my memories are of the royal tour of 1963 and the events which we as school children took part in then at the Auckland Domain and lining Manukau Road as the royal procession drove by.
Today, in 2002, we are proud to show you contemporary New Zealand. While its physical beauty is both unchanged and as great as ever, New Zealand today is a very different nation from that which you first visited in 1953. While agriculture is still very important, our economy has diversified, our cities are sophisticated, and our population has many more representatives of many cultures from around the world, contributing to our cultural richness and diversity.
Over the past fifty years the changes for Maori in our society have been profound. Post-war urbanisation brought many challenges and the population has grown significantly. A powerful Maori renaissance has seen Maori become deeply involved in all spheres of national life. The confident assertion of Maori identity and its expression through art, literature and culture is a unique and fundamental feature of New Zealand today.
While the islands of New Zealand lie geographically remote in the South Pacific, we are more strongly connected to the rest of the world than ever. Ethical values are still the foundation for our involvement in many places as we contribute to bringing peace to troubled nations.
Today, Your Majesty and Your Royal Highness visited Burnham Military Camp and talked to some of our defence force personnel who are preparing for duty in East Timor. Our people there have made a difference and they take pride in helping that small nation make a fresh start.
Service, in all its forms, is an important theme in the Jubilee celebrations this year throughout the Commonwealth. It is a time to acknowledge those who support and contribute to their communities through service and volunteering. Over one million New Zealanders are involved in voluntary work. They freely give their time and their expertise, and our communities are the stronger for their generosity of spirit. Representatives of the voluntary and community sector will have the opportunity to meet our guests during the course of the visit. We appreciate the time the Royal Family gives to a great many very worthy charities.
Considerable thought has gone into an appropriate gift to Your Majesty to mark this visit and the Golden Jubilee. We have chosen for you the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography both in English and in Maori, and the New Zealand Historical Atlas. These are special and important works, charting the shape and history of the land and the stories of thousands of individual New Zealanders who made a difference. Accompanying the book is a unique CD Rom introducing the biographies and features from the Atlas.
Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, on behalf of all New Zealanders, I extend a very warm welcome to you both. Thank you again for coming in this special Jubilee year. The interest you have taken in our country and the regular contact you have maintained with us over half a century has earned you great respect in New Zealand. We wish you well for the many celebrations this year throughout the Commonwealth of this major milestone in your reign.
No reira, kia tau nga manaakitanga a te Atau ki runga ki a tatou katoa. Kia ora huihui ano.