Speech – to Diplomatic Corps Study Tour - Waikato Innovation Park

Ambassadors, representatives of your many countries it pleases me to convey a special greeting to you all on this sacred land of Waikato Tainui.  Fa’afetai fa’apitoa ia te outou uma I le lau’ele’ele paiao Waikato Tainui

Nga mihi nui ki koutou Nga Rangatira o te Ao i tēnei whenua o Waikato Tainui

Te whare Ariki o Potatau, Kingi Tuheitia nga mihi nui ki koe, otira ki o koutou katoa

Before I begin, I wish to acknowledge and congratulate His Excellency Papali’i Leasi Tommy Scanlan on the anniversary of the constitution of Samoa, in the 60th year of Samoa’s independence and of Samoa’s Treaty of Friendship with Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Samoa is the only country that New Zealand has a Treaty of Friendship with – though we have a great many friends including you all here today.

Excellencies, I welcome you warmly to this closing session of your study tour, on behalf of Minister Mahuta.

To all of you, I hope you have enjoyed and been well looked after these past days. They have been busy and engaging ones.

I am delighted that the programme has ranged broadly across the many facets and faces of two growing regions of Te Ika-a Māui – the North Island.

It is wonderful to see how many of you have taken up this opportunity – particularly those of you who have travelled from offshore – to explore this part of Aotearoa New Zealand and to see our country in greater depth and diversity.

You have visited two regions, Tauranga Moana and Waikato, which are growing in importance for Aotearoa New Zealand’s future.   You have, I hope, seen a glimpse of what that future may look like for the people, organisations and industries here – and how they may connect to your own.

They are, of course, also places resonant of New Zealand’s past, including in the journey that has forged our nation, its bicultural identities and relationships and, increasingly, its diverse and multicultural community and outlook.

They carry some heaviness in their history; and such weights are still with us.  The journey has not been an easy one and is not over.  Minister Mahuta describes it as a ‘challenge-space’. 

But like all challenges, it is one that shapes us.  We are learning to live with our history and to grow from it – ultimately in positive ways.

And in few places more so than these two regions you have visited.

Both have long been, and remain, important economic, cultural and political centres for te ao Māori - the Māori world.  Minister Mahuta was personally delighted that the study tour was able to visit the Waikato and has included time at Tūrangawaewae, given her own deep connections. 

Both regions are rich in the mauri of their whenua and moana – the life force of their lands and oceans.  This mauri, these natural resources, have provided a base for the well-being and prosperity of the people who have made their homes here for over 700 years – since the arrival of the voyaging waka, Tainui and Aotearoa off Kāwhia in this region, and Tākitimu and Mātaatua in Tauranga Moana.

They are riches and resources that have, unsurprisingly, been subject to many a tussle. 

In the mid-1800s the Waikato, in particular, was home to a thriving and adaptive Māori economy supplying grain, meat and fruit to the growing settlement of Auckland.   While political and economic fortunes have ebbed and flowed since then, the economic base to be found in these lands and waters has remained.  

You have spent time this afternoon with Tainui Group Holdings.  This is a fine example of the value that can be created out of redress for past injustice.  It is a little over a quarter-century since Waikato-Tainui settled their Treaty of Waitangi claim, restoring a resource base to the iwi and providing the asset base now managed by Tainui Group Holdings.

The settlement amounted to $170 million.  Today, that has grown to an asset base of over $1 billion.  And while that is an important achievement, Tainui do not ultimately measure success only via the economic bottom line. This is an enterprise pursuing an encompassing 2050 vision for its people:

That is:  Kia tupu he iwi whai hua, whai ora, whai tikanga taakiri ngaakau, kaakiri hinengaro; to grow a prosperous, healthy, vibrant, innovative and culturally strong iwi.  

They have adopted the long term, triple bottom line approach that is increasingly required of all of us: to measure success and impact across its economic, social and environmental dimensions.

This is a vibrant endeavour for the future of Waikato-Tainui.  And it is a vibrant endeavour for the future of the Waikato as a whole and for Aotearoa New Zealand.

I have dwelt here on the strength of the natural resource base.  But you have also seen that the economies of Tauranga-Moana and Waikato (and indeed that of Tainui), do not stop at its primary industries.

These are also places of research, innovation, and entrepreneurship.  There are new economies under construction, taking up new technologies and opportunities, and tackling pressing social and sustainability issues, including the pressing challenge to combat climate change and biodiversity issues. 

I hope this study tour has given you an insight into some of these areas too.

You will, no doubt, have followed some of the remarks made by Minister Mahuta, including to the Diplomatic Corps at Waitangi last year, where she expressed those aspects of Aotearoa New Zealand’s identity that are key to our international relations and our success in the world.

They include:

  • the relevance of our Treaty of Waitangi journey;
  • principles of partnership, participation and protection;
  • our Pacific identity and family and a tirohanga Māori – a Māori world view;
  • the values that are unique to us but reflect universal concerns; and
  • the importance of taking an intergenerational outlook.

And, through all of this, the centrality of relationships of mutuality and trust.

I am, in that respect, particularly pleased to note the strong progress of our reconnecting New Zealand work as we progressively open the border and welcome our many international friends and visitors again.

For such an open and outward facing country as Aotearoa New Zealand, the closure of the border has been one of the hardest things we have had to do.

I know it has been hard for the diplomatic corps as well.  Thank you for working with us to ensure our COVID measures have kept us all safe. 

Minister Mahuta has also spoken of Aotearoa New Zealand’s core and enduring interests in the world:

  • in the rules based order;
  • in the safety and security of our country and region;
  • in international conditions and connections that allow Aotearoa New Zealand and New Zealanders to prosper; and
  • in global action on climate change and environmental sustainability.

These interests are growing in importance.

2022 has seen rising international geostrategic tensions become very overt.

Russia’s invasion and ongoing war against Ukraine has taken a deep toll on the people and country of Ukraine, and has shifted the security calculus in Europe.  It has shocked much of the world, including Aotearoa New Zealand, and raised a spectre we hoped was behind us. It is already casting a long and global economic shadow that reaches to our part of the world.

But that invasion is not only an assault on a country. It is an assault on the rules-based international order and the values underpinning that order. 

Shaping, agreeing and strengthening the rules and norms that allow states to resolve issues peaceably and fairly; that moderate the power of the large and protect the interests of all, including the small; that allow us to tackle international and global challenges – this is the bread and butter of Aotearoa New Zealand’s diplomacy across our security, trade, environment and development interests. 

It is not possible to overstate how important a rules-based order, with human dignity and safety at its core, is to Aotearoa New Zealand.

It is an order that is hard-won; built up slowly and painstakingly, as norms are framed, rules agreed, institutions and standards developed, however imperfectly. Indeed it is an order that urgently needs to evolve and respond to new challenges, even though finding common ground among 193 disparate states is seldom easy.

By contrast, unilateral actions which seek to undermine, or even wreck, the foundations of that order – can happen quickly and can do great and lasting damage if they are allowed to. 

So yes, alongside others, Aotearoa New Zealand has cut new ground in response to this assault. We have condemned the invasion unequivocally. We have instituted an autonomous sanctions regime at speed, alongside travel bans and export controls. We have committed humanitarian aid to support the Ukrainian people.  We have provided military aid, in line with international law, to assist Ukraine to defend its sovereignty, territory and citizenry.

For this is not a war between authoritarians and democracies.  It is not a war between the West and Russia.  It is a struggle between internationally agreed rules and no-rules. Between the rights of states and of people and no-rights. We know where we stand, and we stand firm with those who share these values.

Being clear on what we stand for will matter in the period ahead, as it always has.  It will matter in our own region – which is not free from geopolitical tensions and competition. There has been much debate about recent events and the connections and choices that Pacific countries may be faced with.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s approach to these issues is clear.  We start, as Minister Mahuta has stated, from our values, including a tirohanga Māori, our whanaungatanga (family connections with the Pacific) and the long term relationships we hold and invest in. 

We recognise the mana and sovereignty of our Pacific partners and we listen carefully to their issues and interests. We engage with clarity and respect.  We make sure our views are known and understood by all, including on our shared interests.  We do so via the mature relationships and the regular and full dialogues we have with all players and at all levels. 

We work closely with the regional architecture, most particularly the Pacific Islands Forum.  Where there are issues and implications of regional importance and where regional positions are required, including on regional security, we look to the Forum and for engagement in the Pacific Way.

That Pacific Way is not always fast or easy, but it is deep and carries weight.  Debate and consensus can be challenging, but it is not a new practice in our region – it is an ancient one.  And we have the tools.  They are to be found in the talanoa, around the kava bowl, in the fono, on the marae.  And around the village committee table that is the Pacific Islands Forum where we meet as friends, family and partners. 

So, in that spirit I share this Maori proverb –

“Mā mua ka kite a muri, Mā muri ka ora a mua”

Those who lead give sight to those who follow,

Those who follow give life to those who lead.

Now, as is our custom in te ao Māori and across the Pacific, and indeed one with parallels in all your home nations and cultures, the formal speeches are appropriately followed by kai – refreshments.

This custom meets a physical need.  But of course it also meets a spiritual need – to find connection, community, common ground.  You can only get so far with formal speeches and diplomacy before the real business happens around food.

We would do well, in these times of global uncertainty and conflict, to spend more time with one another in the whare kai – the dining room – acknowledging that the needs of all nations and all peoples are really very similar.

They are the need for peace, for prosperity, and for the health and well-being of the environment and of the people who live within it and care for it.

No reira

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