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Battle of Cassino comemoration - PM Speech

Rt. Hon Helen Clark
19 May 2004

Battle of Cassino comemoration: NZ Reception, Palazzo Barberini, Rome, Italy

Tonight is an important night for New Zealand in Italy.

Sixty years ago, 343 New Zealanders gave their lives in the battle of Cassino. Over 2,000 New Zealand soldiers who came to Italy to fight between 1943 and 1945 are buried here.

On this 60th anniversary, many of our veterans, their families, and descendants of the fallen have made the long journey from New Zealand to commemorate what happened. For many of our veterans, this is the last chance they will have to visit the places where their comrades fell. This is an anniversary of great significance to New Zealand.

Your presence tonight honours New Zealand and all our people who have come to Italy at this time.

Tonight I want to reflect not only on the history we have shared, but also to look forward.

Today New Zealand and Italy share a range of interests in the United Nations, the Balkans, Antarctica, and in counter-terrorism. Yet the relationship is not as broad, nor as dynamic, as it has the potential to be.

New Zealand and Italy have a successful joint venture enabling year round supply to Japan of kiwifruit. That is a model of economic collaboration which benefits us both.

We could do more together in the creative industries. That’s why on this visit I am signing amendments to our film co-production agreement with Italy’s Minister of Culture. Our agreement is seven years old, and no films have resulted from it. The New Zealand government has a film fund which provides funding for New Zealand co-production, and we have a new large budget screen grant scheme to attract offshore film investment. We would love to see Italy as a partner.

On this visit I am also looking at the potential for New Zealand to collaborate with Italy in design, where Italy is an acknowledged world leader.

I am convinced that there is scope for Italy and New Zealand to add more value to each other’s economy and society. In the latter respect, we can both do more to promote the Working Holiday Scheme available so our young people can travel and work in each other’s countries.

For many years New Zealand and Italy have collaborated on Antarctic research co-operation, and Italy uses Christchurch in New Zealand as its logistics base. Could this collaboration not spread into other areas? New Zealand has world leading biological, medical, industrial, geothermal, environmental, and other science programmes, and looks to collaborate with others in getting research breakthroughs and in commercialising our innovations.

These are just some ideas to freshen up our relationship!

On the battlefield, or the rugby field, the Maori war dance, or haka, is one of New Zealand’s best known symbols, an expression of national vitality and identity.

A Maori kapahaka, or cultural, group from the New Zealand Navy will now demonstrate, through dance and song, why New Zealand soldiers were both feared and revered when they fought here in Italy!

Thank you for coming tonight.


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