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Speech by HRH Prince William at Court Opening

Supreme Court opening
18 Jan 2010

Speech by HRH Prince William at the opening of the Supreme Court building, Wellington.

Chief Justice, Prime Minister, thank you both for your warm welcome.

I have incredibly fond memories of my last visit to New Zealand, and I am so delighted to be back again.

But before reflecting on my last visit, and the pleasure I feel on my return, I should like to say – and I speak here on behalf of The Prime Minister and The Chief Justice as well as for myself - how much the people of Haiti are in all our thoughts and prayers at this terrible time.

I should like to say again how extraordinarily happy I am to be back in New Zealand. In 2005, I was here to follow the rugby – the All Blacks showing the British and Irish Lions how rugby is played here! But I also had the opportunity to explore this country, with its unrivalled beauty and dynamic people. I will never forget the welcome and great kindness that I received everywhere I went, and from everybody I met. I learnt very quickly just how distinctive, refreshing, and confident this great nation is.

This visit gives me the chance to learn more about New Zealanders and our closely shared values. The overwhelming impression I have is of a nation that believes passionately in itself, in the value of democracy, in each other and other peoples, and in the rule of law.

We know from our history of the courage and stoicism of New Zealanders – exemplified by the valour of such men as Charles Upham, whose double VC I had the privilege of seeing for myself in 2005, and whose exploits echo down the years in the recent courageous actions of
Willy Apiata in Afghanistan. But this is also a young, entrepreneurial, forward-looking nation. After all, you’ve even managed to help catapult my family into the digital ether. The Queen started tweeting a few months ago, and now thanks to New Zealand I am being Bebo-d and Facebooked for the first time – rapidly catching up with my grandmother.

New Zealand’s values are ones that I greatly admire. They have deep roots in our heritage and constitutional history. In New Zealand today, of course, that shared history is only one part of the story. For the country’s rich legacy is also derived from the Maori, New Zealand’s first people, from the Treaty of Waitangi and the enduring partnership between the Maori and the Crown. This dimension is unique to New Zealand and its constitution. I would like to acknowledge the presence here of Te Atiawa and other Taranaki tribes, and Maori leaders from across the country. Thank you for allowing me to wear this magnificent korawai – it is a great honour.

Today marks another milestone in New Zealand’s unique constitutional journey. In January 2004, the New Zealand Supreme Court came into being, as the country’s final Court of Appeal. No longer did New Zealanders have to make the long trip to London to argue cases before the judicial committee of the Privy Council; for six years now, you have had your own Supreme Court Bench and a Supreme Court appeal system. What has been lacking is a building – and that is why today is so significant for all of us gathered here and New Zealanders everywhere.

There is personal significance for me, too, as I have my own links to the legal profession. A few months ago, I was called to the Bar as an honorary barrister at London’s Middle Temple. I was also called to the Bench, following in the tradition of Royal Benchers established at Middle Temple. I made a promise to the Benchers last year… I will not attempt to practice in my new role!

I am, though, genuinely honoured and delighted to have a formal connection with the legal profession. This is particularly true as the Judiciary is one of the three principal branches of government, and in 1977 The Queen opened the Beehive, housing the Executive branch of the government and, in 1995, the refurbished Parliament Buildings, one of the most beautiful landmarks of the city.

Therefore, in opening the Supreme Court building today - the home of the most senior members of the Judiciary - I am deeply honoured to continue this tradition by representing Her Majesty, The Queen of New Zealand.

This morning I have had the chance to see the building for myself. I have learned about the challenges of the restoration, and how this striking modern design, incorporating the key elements of sustainability, complements the superbly restored old High Court building. Old and new are a fitting and worthy home for the highest Court in New Zealand.

This room has an extraordinary feel to it – as if we are actually inside the cone of the Kauri – the giant of the ancient forests of New Zealand. I understand that when the Kauri cone matures, its winged seeds are dispersed by the wind. In the same way, let this Court dispense justice to all parts of the nation.

Tēnā tatou katoa.

It gives me great pleasure, with the unveiling of this plaque, to open the New Zealand Supreme Court Building.

Read the Prime Minister's speech at the opening here

Read previous features about Prince William's visit here


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