"Come the day and come the hour"

Speech at the Institute of International and European Affairs

Dublin, Ireland
13 November 2018

Thank you for the chance to speak with you today.

Of the many things that New Zealand and Ireland have in common one is that neither of us view our size as an excuse to be a mere spectator to world events.

We have always seen it as both a responsibility and indeed a necessity to fight for our fundamental values to create the kind of world we want to live in.

We are small island nations populated by proud peoples.

Despite our size, we have never been afraid to speak up for ourselves and for what we believe in. 

There is a well-worn adage - ‘you’re either at the table or you’re on the menu’. 

We have entered a period of dangerous uncertainty in global affairs.

The global system underpinning our security and prosperity for the past 75 years is under unprecedented stress.

The values and norms on which that system rests – democracy, respect for human rights, open societies and open economies – are under attack in a way not seen for generations.

The commitment of key players to the global rules-based system, which has regulated trade and reduced conflict between states, is now a matter of uncertainty.

And we are seeing efforts to reshape the world in ways that do not always support our interests or reflect our values.

For small states like New Zealand and Ireland, who have much to lose from global instability and the abandonment of rules, this is a real and present danger.

We need to fight for our values and to assert our interests.

It is not surprising, then, that both New Zealand and Ireland have made strategic decisions in the past year to expand our diplomatic engagement.

For us, we are growing our presence across Europe. Yesterday the first New Zealand Embassy in Ireland was officially opened, a milestone in our relationship with Ireland and for our deeper engagement with the European Union membership.

Last Thursday in Stockholm we opened our New Zealand Embassy there.

This investment comes at a time as Europe undergoes its largest geo-strategic shift in decades as the United Kingdom exits the European Union.

As we work through the implications of this both for the region and for our own interests; as we deepen our cooperation with European partners on issues ranging from climate change to global security and as we launch negotiations towards a Free Trade Agreement with the EU – our commitment to our European partners is stronger than ever.  

And for Ireland, we are pleased to see your Government’s decision to ‘double its global footprint’ through the Global Ireland strategy and the impressive decision to open 26 new posts globally over the coming years.

We are particularly, pleased with the focus on our region – the Asia-Pacific.

We are delighted to see more of Ireland in our neighbourhood.

You might ask why as part of this we have both decided to open embassies in our respective countries.

 Why have we chosen each other? And why now?

The obvious answer to this lies in our shared history and heritage.

Put simply, we have kinship ties.

One in six New Zealanders can claim Irish ancestry.

But this does not do justice to the enormous contribution that Irish New Zealanders have made to building New Zealand, and to the development of our national character and identity.

This contribution dates back to the earliest days of European settlement.

Irish settlers played a central role in the European settlement as leading politicians, jurists and public servants.

Some of our most illustrious Prime Ministers have claimed Irish ancestry.

This includes James FitzGerald, New Zealand’s first Premier. New Zealand history.

John Balance and Michael Joseph Savage, the architects of New Zealand’s welfare state, and of course our current Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, claim Irish ancestry; as does our Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy.

Many of our most successful business people have been of Irish stock.

And Irish migrants and their descendants have been some of our most active and passionate advocates for social justice.

Much as it pains New Zealanders to admit this, Irish DNA has made a considerable contribution to the success of our national rugby team as well.

Dave Gallaher, captain of the famous “Originals” All Black team that toured Ireland, Britain and France in 1905-06, was from Ramelton, County Donegal.

Many of our finest All Blacks since have been of Irish stock: Sean Fitzpatrick, John Kirwan, Christian Cullen, and the extraordinary Barrett brothers, to name but a few.

Speaking of rugby, we haven’t forgotten the brilliance of the Irish team which defeated the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016. As you all know we have another match on Saturday.  We’ve found it’s always better to open a diplomatic post when the host nation is in an optimistic frame of mind.  It might be much harder if we had our embassy opening next week!

Many of our most famous and celebrated artists and musicians are of Irish heritage.

Many claim Irish heritage including iconic Māori entertainer Howard Morrison, the Finn brothers (of Crowded House fame), and current pop sensation Lorde (who’s surname, for those of you who don’t know, is actually ‘O’Connor’).

This story continues to evolve with each new wave of Irish immigrants and visitors to New Zealand.

When much of New Zealand’s second largest city, Christchurch, was almost levelled by a devastating earthquake in 2011, it was Irish tradespeople who answered the call for assistance in rebuilding the city.

These people are leaving a permanent legacy in New Zealand’s landscape when they depart.

We’re also delighted to receive more than 10,000 visitors from Ireland every year, including more than 2,000 young people under our popular working holiday scheme.

All this is without even mentioning our love of Irish whiskey, or the more than 65 Irish pubs in New Zealand.

Our decision to open an Embassy in Dublin is less about our shared past than it is about what should be our shared future.

Our links of history mean we have an ease and comfort with each other that makes us natural partners, both bilaterally and on the world stage.

Our fierce sense of independence is combined with our innate sense of fairness and natural justice.

We are both willing to stand up for ourselves, while never losing our sense of humour and our ability to laugh at ourselves.

That said, there are several areas where we hope to see New Zealand and Ireland working more closely together.

The foremost is of course climate change, where we are fast running out of time to avoid catastrophe. We need to intensify our efforts to identify practical solutions.

We are already doing this in the agricultural sector, where we are both members of the Global Research Alliance, which seeks to reduce agricultural emissions while enhancing production to feed a rapidly growing global population.

We would also welcome Irish participation in New Zealand initiatives to promote uptake of climate friendly agricultural technologies and practices and to facilitate action towards meeting our ambitious goals for achieving carbon neutrality.

We have long been close partners in demanding the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, including through our shared membership of the New Agenda Coalition.

We both also have proud traditions as contributors to peace operations around the world.

New Zealand certainly tried to defend our values during our recent membership of the UN Security Council; and we are confident that Ireland will do the same if elected in 2021-22.

And New Zealand is pleased to reaffirm its support for Ireland’s candidacy, and we stand ready to provide whatever help we can as you prepare for membership.

Both New Zealand and Ireland are also committed to open and inclusive trade policies that provide opportunities for all of our citizens.

And we both understand the importance of a global trading system based on fair and transparent rules.

We will need to fight for these rules in the years ahead, in the WTO and elsewhere.

As we both seek to expand our global reach and influence, we will find no more natural friends and partners in our respective regions. And as both of our regions undergo significant change over the coming years we are well placed to share experiences and learn from each other as trusted partners.

Ireland is one of New Zealand’s closest friends in Europe. We will rely on Ireland for advice and support as we strengthen our relations and practical cooperation with the European Union.

We have been very grateful for Ireland’s support for the launch of negotiations between New Zealand and the EU on a Free Trade Agreement. We hope we can now move quickly to conclude a comprehensive, high quality agreement that serves as a model for progressive and inclusive trade policies.

As the European Union evolves post-Brexit, we will also seek Ireland’s insights on the nature of these changes and what they might mean for Ireland, as well as for third countries like New Zealand.

In turn, New Zealand has much to share from its knowledge of East Asia. Over the past two decades New Zealand has been fortunate to benefit from the most rapid expansion of the middle class in economic history occurring in our region.

Rapid growth in East Asian economies has provided us with significant opportunities. We have worked hard to embed ourselves in the institutional architecture of the Asia-Pacific, including through an extensive network of FTAs, to ensure we are able to fully capitalise on this. 

And given our experience we can tell you what some of the pitfalls for us have been.

We were the first developed country in the world to sign a Free-Trade Agreement with China in 2008. We were also at the forefront of negotiating the now Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. This agreement, which involves eleven Asia Pacific countries with provision for others to join, represents a significant step forward towards bringing down barriers to trade across our region.

New Zealand also has much to offer on the Pacific, a region that welcomes constructive partners like Ireland and the EU.

The Pacific may seem distant, but it is a strategically important and an increasingly contested space.

We have seriously increased our focus and support for our Pacific neighbourhood.

This strategy provides for strengthened cooperation with constructive, likeminded partners such as Ireland and the EU. We welcome the contribution you are making in the region, both in terms of development assistance and your commitment to shared values, and we want to remain close partners.

Finally, there is much more we can do together in terms of bilateral cooperation.

In particular, there is considerable untapped potential in our trade and economic relations.

These links are currently fairly modest, with little more than $400 million in two way goods and services trade annually.

We can and will do better in the years ahead, as New Zealand companies give Ireland a closer look when considering how to manage their European operations in a post-Brexit environment.

New Zealand also provides untapped potential for Irish businesses seeking a foothold in Australasia and the Asia Pacific. 

We boast one of best business environments in the world, having been consistently ranked number one in the world for ease of doing business by the World Bank, as well as second in annual prosperity and economic freedom indices.

A number of New Zealand and Irish companies are already taking advantage of these opportunities.

But as New Zealand reaches the natural limits of its production in a number of sectors we are looking for partners to enable us to meet demand in fast-growing global markets.

There is much to be gained by Irish and New Zealand farmers through partnering in global supply chains and pooling our connections and expertise, particularly in the meat and dairy sectors.

In doing so, we both have much to gain from pooling our knowledge and expertise.

In the area of agri-tech our innovative, New Zealand companies have been over here sharing kiwi farming solutions for some time. Partnering with Irish farmers, our companies are helping to strengthen farm management systems and increase productivity in everything from milking, to effluent management, to automated farm management systems.

Given our isolation, New Zealanders have always been pioneers, finding practical solutions to solve problems. This attitude to get stuck in and get the job done is at the heart of many of our successful New Zealand businesses and technological innovations.

You may be aware that we now even have a thriving kiwi company launching rockets into space – Rocket Lab, which has driven us as government to launch a New Zealand Space Agency.

In turn, Ireland’s innovative, creative and digital sector offer potential for collaboration and partnership.

Irish companies such as Westbourne IT have already set up operations in New Zealand, after considering a range of other locations in the Asia Pacific. They chose New Zealand because of the ease of doing business and the close alignment of New Zealand and Irish values. We expect more companies will decide to follow their example.

And this week a delegation of Māori entrepreneurs and investors, including a number representing the IT sector, are visiting Ireland in search of inspiration and partnership.

Another area for current and future collaboration that is very dear to my heart as Minister of Racing is that of the racing industry.

Yesterday we visited The Curragh, Ireland’s iconic and world-renowned racecourse, and were impressed by its upgraded facilities and training grounds. We also visited the Irish National Stud.

The success of New Zealand’s world class horse racing industry owes a great deal to Irish bloodstock and to the contribution of Irish New Zealanders as breeders and administrators.

None come to mind so strongly as New Zealand horse breeding legend Sir Patrick Hogan, whose passion for the thoroughbred is a legacy passed down to him by his Irish father, Tom Hogan.

Sir Patrick Hogan’s fortunes were built on an extraordinary partnership with another Irish export - an unlikely champion called Sir Tristram. Bought from Ireland to New Zealand, this feisty, difficult horse blossomed under his care into a superbly successful breeding sire.

These are just some of the areas in which our people will benefit from their governments taking the long overdue step of opening resident embassies.

Anyone who has studied Irish political and economic history for the last four decades is driven to admire one of the world’s great economic success stories.

New Zealand can learn a lot from Ireland’s story.

In today’s global environment of uncertainty and instability, it has never been more important than it is now for friends like us to work together.