Presentation of Certificates to Students from Hosei High SchoolImmigration
Visiting students and staff of Hosei High School. A very special welcome to New Zealand. Kia ora from Aoteoroa, Land of the Long White Cloud.
And to the staff and students of Orewa College, Konichiwa.
It's a real privilege to be here today as the Member of Parliament for this area - to celebrate with you the completion of Hosei High School's short programme in New Zealand, and to acknowledge the friendships that have developed over that time.
The friendships you have built over the past three weeks play an important role in strengthening the broad network of people-to-people links between Japan and New Zealand that have been developed over the past three decades.
New Zealand's understanding of Japan has changed rapidly since the relationship between our two countries really began to take shape some thirty years ago.
Up until the 1960s, New Zealand had none of the links with Japan that we now take for granted.
For example, there were no direct air links.
Japanese was not taught in any New Zealand schools.
There were no links through universities or schools.
There were no teacher exchanges, and few Japanese tourists.
There was definitely no sushi or karaoke, and regrettably, I didn't get to grow up with a Playstation.
But seriously, for most New Zealanders there were very few opportunities, if any, to get to know Japanese people and their culture.
It is to our great benefit that this has all changed. In 1999, New Zealand people are familiar with Japan and your wonderful culture.
New Zealand's relationship with Japan, at the Government level, is of immense importance for a whole range of reasons.
In fact, Japan has become one of New Zealand's most important economic partners.
You are our third largest trading partner, consuming 12% of everything that we export.
Ministers at all levels know each other and work together regularly.
Just a few weeks ago I hosted your Trade Minister, Yasano, at the APEC Trade Ministers Meeting.
I have great respect for Yasano, and we're very good friends. He also plays a mean game of golf.
To unwind after a full day of APEC meetings in June, I took the Trade Ministers from all APEC economies to unwind at one of our finest golf courses just up the road, Gulf Harbour.
Your Minister Yasano teed off from the very challenging 15th hole, and I'm pleased to report that he played a wonderful stroke.
And these relationships go right through Government. Last month, our Prime Minister made her second visit to Japan, and of course your Prime Minister Obuchi will visit New Zealand for the APEC Leaders' Meeting in September.
But Government relationships are just one part of New Zealand's relationship with Japan.
There are a range of relationships at other levels - sister city relationships, university exchanges, joint venture companies in both countries. We have strong trade and investment links, and a sound bi-lateral relationship.
For Orewa, this is the ninth year that Hosei High School have sent students to Orewa, and I'm certain that it will continue for many years to come.
From a New Zealand perspective, I congratulate Orewa College - its board, staff, the Principal Ms Shevland and Drew Parsons - for their initiative and foresight in giving this programme such a high priority.
The relationship with Hosei High School, although seemingly small, plays an important part in the further development of relations between New Zealand and Japan.
As New Zealand continues to expand our links with Japan and other countries in the Pacific Basin, it is vital that our young people become aware of and understand their neighbours in a way that was never considered, nor possible, when I went to school.
You see, all people-to-people links help strengthen the friendship and understanding between our two countries.
As I've already suggested, New Zealand's relationship with Japan is not just about Governments.
Even more important are the relationships that develop between individuals and groups across the divides of geography, culture and religion.
It is your generation that we rely on to continue to strengthen these relationships.
It's a big responsibility, but the rewards, for both countries, cannot be delivered by Governments on their own.
It's up to you, the future leaders of New Zealand and Japan.
Go for it.