25 October, 2006
Hutt City Council Citizenship Ceremony
Address to candidates for citizenship, Hutt City Hall, Lower Hutt
Tena koutou katoa, Talofa lava, Malo e lelei, Bula Vanaka, Kia Orana, Namaste, Ni hao, Salamalikum and a warm welcome to you all.
May I congratulate each and every new citizen and your families in the decision you have made to become New Zealanders today.
We welcome you, and we celebrate the skills and the contribution that you make to New Zealand.
It is appropriate to reflect on what it means to be a New Zealander.
Occasions such as today serve to remind us of those features that underpin our shared identity as New Zealanders.
New Zealand is blessed with a unique and beautiful land – our whenua – treasured since the earliest times of human settlement.
As a young New Zealander doing my "OE" (or 'overseas experience') I was haunted by those images and sounds:
- The dark olive green of our bush;
- The morning chorus of nature's birdsong;
- The high southern alps; the gentle bays and the coves of our rugged coastline;
- The traditional haka and waiata of Maori, our tangata whenua – the first people of this land.
These images have stayed in my mind as symbols of our common heritage.
However, we now live in a new world. A global world where goods, finance and even people are increasingly mobile. A world where there is increasing competition between nations to attract the best talent and the best skills the world has to offer.
How then can New Zealand remain true to itself and to its unique heritage, while charting a bold course through these new waters?
First, we must firmly grasp the obvious – New Zealand is no longer a British colony, "marooned" 17,000 miles from its "mothership" in England.
We are a modern, Asia-Pacific democracy with a unique culture and a proud record of achievement and service.
In our short history we have been on a journey; a journey towards true independence; political and economic sovereignty, and a growing sense of our unique, shared identity.
No doubt our constitutional form will continue to evolve and reflect that aspiration and that identity.
Our partnership with Maori will be the foundation for a progressive multiculturalism and within this new constitutional maturity.
New Zealanders must also firmly and clearly state what we stand for in the world.
Our record speaks for itself.
Internationally we are often seen as the "Nordics of the South Pacific" – heavily committed to constructive multilateral engagement and to international peacekeeping.
We are proud of our contribution to international human rights and the global environment.
From the Pacific Islands Forum to the UN General Assembly to the World Trade Organisation, New Zealand punches above its weight to achieve a fair and just international order.
That is not only our ethical responsibility as a good global citizen; it is part of a "unique selling proposition" that reinforces our global brand.
As we progress, we must continually sharpen that brand to reflect our maturing sense of national identity. In a world of globalisation – distinctiveness matters like never before.
We have every reason to be the envy of the world as a premium lifestyle destination; a high-tech, high-value producer of global products and service; an environment second to none; and a trusted and respected global citizen.
Let me draw out one crucial domestic strand of this national identity rope – crucial to this audience of new Kiwis in particular.
New Zealand has a proud tradition of multicultural respect and tolerance – of celebrating our diversity, just as we sharpen our sense of shared identity.
Each year in Auckland and around the country, diverse cultural festivals are now highlights of our calendar.
Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival attract more than 100,000 people while the annual Pasifika Festival sees 200,000 people celebrate the largest Polynesian festival in the world; Diwali draws up to another 100,000 and is fast becoming a regular national celebration.
In my own electorate of New Lynn, our own Festival of Cultures draws together Hindu, Moslem, Buddhist, Christian, Bahai, agnostics, Asian, Pasifika, European and Maori.
Food. Dance. Song. Fun. Respect. Celebration. And not a hint of tension or conflict.
That kind of positive, peaceful, multiculturalism is one of New Zealand's most precious treasures.
It is something you will inherit and contribute to as new New Zealanders. It is something I work hard to build and protect.
It is something our immigration programme is designed to reinforce by taking people based on their skills and qualifications and the contribution they can make.
And it is a taonga (or treasure) that as a passionate New Zealanders I work very hard to protect.
Not all New Zealanders have yet grasped this spirit of celebration. Some "old Kiwis" still look over their shoulders at those who appear different.
Despite surveys that suggest more than 85% of employers are happy with their migrant employees, too often we still hear of prejudice in the workplace.
In a country with the lowest unemployment rate in the developed world, that attitude is just dumb.
Those employers are starving themselves of talent. Prejudice has no place in New Zealand.
Today my colleague, Hon David Benson-Pope and I announced a major new initiative to bring more workers from Pacific Island nations to New Zealand for seasonal work opportunities in the horticulture and viticulture industries.
Through this win-win policy we are easing critical labour shortages, boosting New Zealand industry and "walking the talk" about New Zealand's special relationship with the South Pacific.
But as you know, the migration pathway does not stop at the border.
Our immigration settlement strategy, launched in 2004, also recognises that good settlement is more than just getting across the border, more than even citizenship or English language ability, good employment opportunities or fair access to needed social services like education for all our children.
All of those things matter, but good settlement is more than all of them. It is a two-way street. It is about acceptance. About celebrating diversity. About a country where everyone matters. Where everyone belongs. Where everyone's traditions are respected.
That is why I am disturbed when I hear others refer to some New Zealanders as "mainstream" and those of others as not; when some declare that their values are "bedrock" values while others are not and when some seek to divide Maori from Pakeha (including new Kiwis) by preaching conservative rhetoric from their nearest rotary club.
New Zealand does not need wedge politics. It has no place for religious fanaticism of any description. It has no place for private eyes snooping in the lives of public servants. It has no room for the ugly "Americanisation" of politics. It has no time for other people's wars.
New Zealand is justly proud of its unique bicultural heritage; of our emerging multicultural future; of our record of constructive international engagement; of our unique natural environment; of our exciting, shared future as a proud as an Asian-Pacific nation.
So as you swear or affirm your allegiance today, that is the shared future that today as new citizens you are solemnly declaring you want to be part of.
It is a shared future that it is my privilege, on behalf of the Government and people of New Zealand, to welcome you to.
It is a shared future that, above all, is founded on tolerance, respect for and a celebration of diversity.
Today as we celebrate your citizenships, let us recommit ourselves to that.