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NZ hands Queens Baton to Australia for final leg

NZ hands Queens Baton to Australia for final leg

The handing over ceremony takes place 24 January, 10.20am (or midday NZT)at Sydney International Airport)

The New Zealand leg of the Queen's Baton Relay for the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games is concluding today with Sport and Recreation Minister Trevor Mallard and young Auckland athlete Sophie Healey (14) delivering the baton to Australian Prime Minister John Howard in Sydney.

"It’s an honour to hand over the Queen's Baton on behalf of our Prime Minister Helen Clark. It has been on an inspiring journey - through towns across New Zealand but also through communities in all the other Commonwealth countries. I wish everyone well who is participating in the Queen's Baton Relay on its final journey through Australia.

"The Queen's Baton Relay is one of the great traditions of the Commonwealth Games, symbolising both the unity and the diversity of Commonwealth countries.

"The relay has been all the more remarkable this year as the baton has been carried through all 71 countries of the Commonwealth for the first time. Incredibly, this baton will have covered a record 180,000km over 366 days," Trevor Mallard said.

Trevor Mallard also delivered a message from Helen Clark at the handing over ceremony in Sydney (see below).

After Norfolk Island, the baton began the kiwi leg of its journey in Christchurch last week, accompanied by former Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion Danyon Loader. Baton carriers took it through Hokitika, Kaikoura, Nelson, Wellington, Palmerston North, Taupo, Gisborne, Tauranga, Rotorua, Cambridge and the Bay of Islands before it arrived in Auckland yesterday.

The relay will conclude at the Opening Ceremony in Melbourne on 16 March.

Trevor Mallard said he was excited at New Zealand's prospects for the Commonwealth Games in March.

"We saw some great results from our athletes at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and 2005 was an outstanding year for New Zealand sport. I’m confident that we will see this trend continue in Melbourne this year," Trevor Mallard.

Prime Minister's Message:
Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister
2006 Commonwealth Games Queen's Baton

It gives me great pleasure to entrust the Queen's Baton to the Australian people after its remarkable and inspiring journey through New Zealand and other countries of the Commonwealth.

The Queen's Baton Relay is one of the great traditions of the Commonwealth Games, celebrating both the unity and diversity of our Commonwealth countries.

This baton has been carried through towns across New Zealand. It has been passed through the hands of young and old, carried by our sporting legends, current sporting heroes, and by many Kiwi youngsters who may well be our top international athletes of the future.

The Queen's Baton Relay has also been an opportunity for communities around New Zealand to be part of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

New Zealand is looking forward to what will be a fantastic sporting and cultural event in Melbourne.

2005 was a great year for Kiwi sport – and a year that included a number of epic trans-Tasman clashes.

I have no doubt that our traditional trans-Tasman rivalry will continue in seven weeks time when our team competes against Australia’s best and against the best from throughout the Commonwealth.

I wish everyone well who is participating in the Queen's Baton Relay on its final journey through Australia, and I offer my best wishes for what I am sure will be a very successful and exciting Commonwealth Games.

Helen Clark Prime Minister

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