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Speech on being sworn in as Governor-General

Speech on being sworn in as Governor-General, Parliament Buildings, Wellington

31 Aug 2011

Ka tangi te Titi,
Ka tangi te Kaka,
Ka tangi hoki ahau.
Tihei mauri ora!

Mihi and Acknowledgements

E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga maunga, e nga awa-awa, e nga pataka o nga taonga tuku iho, tēnā koutou.
Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Mr Speaker, members of the Executive Council and members of the New Zealand Parliament, Dean and members of the Diplomatic Corps, Chief of the Defence Force, Service Chiefs and Defence representatives, officials, whanau, friends, ladies and gentlemen: kia ora koutou katoa.

The Event and the Day

Prime Minister, thank you for your words of welcome and the sentiments you expressed in your address. Janine and I, and our family, are delighted to have made it to this point, in what shows all the signs of being a wonderful day. For my part, being here is an extraordinary honour. Almost every day over the past six months I’ve reflected on this honour, and when I woke up this morning I gave myself one more pinch just in case! At the same time, it is with some trepidation that we look ahead to what the next five years holds.

The six months since I was named as New Zealand’s 20th Governor-General have passed very quickly. During that time, as a family we’ve both prepared ourselves and been prepared by others for the opportunities that will come with the role. We have been heartened by the generosity of spirit and support that many New Zealanders have shown in congratulating us. Strangers have approached us in the street and in shops to wish us well. A highlight for us was the special audience with Her Majesty the Queen of New Zealand in June.


The prospect of being able to serve both our Queen and the people of New Zealand as Governor General is a privilege that only a few people have the opportunity to take up. The men and women who have preceded me all brought their unique qualities, character, energy and mana to the role. They have been steadfast, like: Te toka tu moana (the rock standing in the ocean). The example they have set gives me cause to be optimistic about what lies ahead, and that has been confirmed as I have drawn on the wisdom of five of my predecessors.

It is with considerable sadness that I remember Sir Paul Reeves, a generous, thoughtful and compassionate man. “No reira Ta Paora, moe mai, moe mai moe mai ra. Ka apiti hono tatai hono te hunga mate ki te hunga mate. Ka apiti hono tatai hono the hunga ora ki te hunga ora”. I also acknowledge Dame Catherine Tizard, Sir Michael Hardie Boys, Dame Silvia Cartwright and Sir Anand Satyanand, who have been so generous and open in sharing their experiences. One of the unfortunate things with “protocols of the office” is that I am only now able to publicly acknowledge, with them in absentia, Sir Anand and Lady Susan for their contributions in the role. As he undertook to do at his swearing-in, Sir Anand served faithfully and impartially, and he did that with dignity, warmth and compassion. Janine and I wish them well as they ease back into a life more ordinary.

The Role, its Challenge and its Opportunities

Like my predecessors, I have taken the Oath of Allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen of New Zealand and the Oath of Office. The two oaths together reflect my commitment to our country and the people of the Realm of New Zealand (including the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau) that I will serve faithfully and impartially. The values and undertakings in these oaths are very important to me.

In the past 12 months we in New Zealand have had some difficult times, and anniversaries of events will test us again in the coming months. However, as a people, New Zealanders, whether we be of Māori, British, European, Pacific Island, Asian or other descent, have cause to see a silver lining in adversity. The Kiwi spirit—companionship and with that a generosity, compassion and resolve when things need to be done—has been evident.

As I’ve reflected on my new role, what I am looking forward to most is the opportunity of meeting and getting to know people: being able to support in the sad times, but also to celebrate successes, achievements and the good times. My view reflects the sentiment of the proverb “He aha te mea nui o te ao—What is the most important thing in the world? The answer is: he tangata, he tangata, he tangata––it is people, it is people, it is people!”

Over the next five years I want to take the opportunity to meet and talk with as many New Zealanders as I can. There are many people who recognise me from my time as the Chief of Defence Force; still more will have no knowledge of me. What I identify as the essence of being a New Zealander was put neatly by Sir Edmund Hillary when he said that “In some ways I believe I epitomise the average New Zealander: I have modest abilities, I combine these with a good deal of determination, and I rather like to succeed.”. As a people, New Zealanders are in equal measures informal, strong-willed, competitive and yet also modest about all we have achieved. We have a strong sense of community, where public-spiritedness is appreciated and valued. We are inclined to be considerate and prepared to lend a helping hand to those in need. Yet we also like to get on and do stuff – we admire individual ingenuity and those who have a sense of adventure.

Looking ahead to our five-year adventure, it is likely that Janine and I will become known better by New Zealanders as we travel together in the Realm of New Zealand and beyond. You will see we are ordinary folk, who have been given a special opportunity. It is our hope that we can encourage people to think about how New Zealanders can make a difference. We look forward to promoting and celebrating those things that positively unite us as New Zealanders: our virtues, our heritage, our way of life and our future. We also want to strengthen the bonds of fraternity between all for whom Aotearoa-New Zealand is our turangawaewae, regardless of whether you or your ancestors came here 10 years ago, 100 years ago or a 1000 years ago.

It will have been obvious that Janine and my being here has been accomplished with the support of our immediate family, our extended whānau, our iwi and our friends. We appreciate their encouragement, guidance and patience. I also want to thank the people who have accommodated our whims, fancies and requests with this ceremony – getting the invitations out has been no small challenge!


When I think about what lies in store for us over the next five years, it’s not easy thinking beyond the events that will unfold over the next three months: an election and of course the Rugby World Cup. With the former, I will exercise my constitutional responsibilities impartially, with the advice of many eminently qualified people. With the latter, like most New Zealanders I will be taking a keen and of course less than impartial interest in the result.

Prayer: Ki a koe, te Matua. Māu e tiaki (Father. Protect me)


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