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Speech: Reclaiming Our Natural Heritage Exhibition

5.45pm Monday 29 April 2002
Speech Notes For Hon Sandra Lee: Opening The Reclaiming Our Natural Heritage Exhibition
Archives New Zealand, 10 Mulgrave Street, Thorndon, Wellington

Kia ora tatou katoa. I am delighted to welcome you this evening.

I acknowledge all those gathered here for this Archives New Zealand exhibition, Reclaiming our Natural Heritage, including the distinguished leaders of Ngati Tuwharetoa [either Tumu Te Heuheu or his brother or both, plus others…]

One of the first major policy initiatives of the Labour-Alliance coalition was the launch of the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy and the record $187 million in new funding for the first five years of its implementation.

The Biodiversity Strategy pulled no punches in pointing out that while New Zealand was one of the last places on earth to be settled by humans, we also had one of the worst records of indigenous biodiversity loss.

The decline in indigenous biodiversity in New Zealand since the arrival of humans has been on a staggering scale. Species have become extinct and vast areas of the countryside have been stripped of their natural cover.

Turning the tide on that loss is a task of massive proportions involving the on-going conservation, biosecurity and ecologically sustainable management of our biological diversity.

You can see aspects of it every week in the inspiring TV1 programme Park Rangers, showcasing the amazingly dedicated work of conservation rangers.

This Archives New Zealand exhibition, Reclaiming our Natural Heritage, explores the attitudes of migrant colonists that led initially to the destruction of much of our indigenous wildlife, and native forest and plant species, in the interests of what they saw as 'progress'.

Tonight we celebrate the reclaiming of our natural heritage from the excesses of the colonial settler mentality that would have destroyed it. Some of the pioneers enthusiastically set about transplanting the plants and animals of the British Isles and exotica from around the world to the islands of Aotearoa.

From them we have inherited gorse from Scotland, wallabies and possums from Australia, thar from the Himalayas, chamois from Austria, wapiti from Canada and stoats and ferrets from Europe.

But today, the conservation ideals embodied in this exhibition motivate people right round New Zealand to work for conservation.

Iwi, community groups, conservation organisations, local councils and enlightened businesses are working on their own or in partnership with the Department of Conservation to protect and restore natural ecosystems.

The Reclaiming our Natural Heritage exhibition focuses primarily on records created by the government departments that were responsible for various aspects of what is now the public conservation estate, before the formation of DOC.
These include the New Zealand Forest Service, Lands and Survey department, Maori Affairs, Tourism and the Department of Internal Affairs.

Archives New Zealand, as the keeper of the government's records, has ensured that the landmarks of our natural heritage have been preserved for present and future generations. The records chart the story of the development of our country, the workings of government, and the contributions of individuals in many fields of endeavour. This exhibition brings such records to life.

I am pleased to be able to invite you all to view the Deed of Gift for Tongariro National Park, signed by Ngati Tuwharetoa's Horonuku Te Heuheu Tukino. He gifted the central portion of today's Tongariro National Park to the Crown in 1887.

His great grandson, paramount chief Tumu Te Heuheu, will lead New Zealand's first-ever formal bid next year (2003) for a seat on the international committee responsible for implementing the World Heritage Convention.

The Deed of Gift is a significant taonga, and a national treasure not just for conservationists but for all New Zealanders.

It was only recently transferred from Land Information New Zealand into the care of Archives New Zealand, and takes pride of place in the exhibition along with a photo of Horonuku Te Heuheu Tukino.

Having highlighted the significance of this Archives New Zealand exhibition, it is now my great pleasure to declare Reclaiming our Natural Heritage officially launched and open.


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