A living Kiwi legend
A living Kiwi legend and a fair dinkum Kiwi to boot
National Party Leader Bill English says Sir Edmund Hillary is a living legend and a fair dinkum Kiwi to boot.
"To me, Sir Edmund is the embodiment of the essential Kiwi spirit, providing us all with proof that anything is possible.
"He has shown, and continues to show, a gritty determination, but he's always been humble about his incredible achievements," says Mr English.
"The former beekeeper took the hearts of all New Zealanders to the top of the world with him and remains one of this country's most respected ambassadors.
"The fact we're celebrating that achievement fifty years on shows how much of an impact it had on New Zealand and the whole world.
"He is a true international explorer, who defied great odds to make the summit of Everest," Mr English says.
"Sir Edmund is enormously approachable and probably one of the few celebrities in New Zealand that is happy to have his name, address and phone number published in the general telephone directory.
"Anyone can ring and chat to Sir Ed, the amazing thing is that he's generally happy to take time out to talk," says Mr English.
"It gives me great pleasure to be part of tonight's televised Sir Edmund Hillary tribute - in my mind there is no greater living New Zealand hero.
"He has generously given vast amounts of his time helping to improve the lives of the Nepalese and is clearly a national treasure," Mr English says.