Ni Men Hao Ambassadors, my fellow MPs, Mayors, Good evening everyone and welcome to our visitors to New Zealand.
It is an honour to open Te Papa’s Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality.
This landmark exhibition offers us a rare opportunity to have an immersive encounter with an ancient and remarkable civilisation.
For more than 2,000 years, the warriors secretly guarded the tomb of China’s First Emperor Qin Shihuang with their discovery in 1974 one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century.
The strong relationship that New Zealand and Te Papa have with Chinese cultural institutions – such as the Shaanxi History Museum, and the Chinese Government, has made this exhibition possible, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved, including our Chinese partners.
I would especially like to thank the Te Papa team for the work they have done in developing a programme of events around the exhibition, including an outstanding education programme that will begin in the new school year.
The New Zealand Government is proudly supporting this exhibition through the Major Events Development Fund, with $500,000 to support the delivery of the event and, in particular, to realise the leverage and legacy opportunities it provides.
As the Prime Minister has stated, New Zealand’s relationship with China is one of our most important and far‑reaching. It is a relationship based on mutual benefit and mutual respect.
Last month I led New Zealand’s participation in China’s inaugural International Import Expo in Shanghai, involving over ninety New Zealand companies. China’s importance to New Zealand, in turbulent times for global trade, is also why we’re upgrading our FTA and cooperating on WTO reform, on which I had a very good discussion with Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen.
But this important relationship is about much more than selling things to each other. And today’s exhibition is a great example of our cooperation in other areas. The Terracotta Warriors exhibition is the cornerstone of the New Zealand programme for the China-New Zealand Year of Tourism in 2019. The Year of Tourism will focus on increasing the quality of experience for tourists both ways.
Building ties through tourism, education, and other links can only encourage greater understanding between our people, and of course add value to New Zealand’s economy.
China is New Zealand’s second largest, and fastest growing, visitor source. And New Zealanders’ fifth most visited destination.
The exhibition is also a celebration of New Zealand’s Chinese heritage, with the inclusion of a specially commissioned multimedia installation by Chinese New Zealand artist Kerry Ann Lee – Return to Skyland.
The Year of Tourism goes in both directions. I hope this exhibition encourages more New Zealanders to start or continue their journey to engage with and understand China, one of our most important partners.
It is a privilege to have these taonga of an ancient civilisation on our shores.
Thank you all for attending this special opening event tonight and please enjoy the exhibition.