• Jim Bolger
Prime Minister


Mr Prime Minister, Mrs Kok and members of your delegation, ladies and gentlemen.

Prime Minister, I have great pleasure in formally welcoming you to New Zealand.

You are the first Prime Minister of the Netherlands to officially visit this country.

But given the misunderstanding which surrounded the visit of your advance party, led by Abel Tasman some 355 years ago, I can understand your delay!

Despite that difficult first encounter, relations between the Netherlands and New Zealand have developed a particular warmth and understanding.

To be politically correct I should welcome you as the leader of what's been described as a 'purple' three party coalition - and a word of advice - have you checked on how things are at home at the moment?

Last night I announced my intention to step down as Prime Minister after the APEC meeting and a short visit to China - China is a very big country and a short visit could take a little time - but I do plan to be home for the millennium celebrations.

Mr Prime Minister, our people have grown close to each other - almost in inverse proportion to the distance that separates us.

Although it was a Dutch cartographer who gave these islands the name New Zealand, it was the arrival here of migrants from your country which deepened the bonds between us.

With the generous assistance of the Dutch Government, the post-war years saw some 28,000 people from the Netherlands gather their possessions and sail to New Zealand, to establish new lives for themselves and their families.

In doing that they showed great courage and great confidence in themselves, and in offering them a home New Zealand has been repaid many times over.

The Netherlands' loss was our gain.

Dutch migrants to New Zealand, then and now, brought with them skills, energy and determination.

I recall the arrival of many of them into the farming community I grew up in.

Your countrymen and women quickly earned a reputation for hard work and community-mindedness.

There were some difficulties.

Eyes lit up when these strapping young men arrived - the difficulty was in teaching them how to play rugby.

There are now, Mr Prime Minister, an estimated 70,000 New Zealanders who claim Dutch ancestry.

There is no facet of New Zealand society to which they have not contributed - be it in manufacturing, science, culture or exports.

I have no doubt that New Zealand and its development is very much the better for this strong Dutch connection.

Next week New Zealanders will be considering the role of immigration as we convene our first ever National Population Conference.

Your visit then is a timely opportunity to mark the importance of the Netherlands' contribution to New Zealand, through immigration.

As the son of migrant parents myself I have a soft spot for the contribution migrants and their families have made to New Zealand.

One such Dutch New Zealander will surely end up as Prime Minister one day.

A past Prime Minister of New Zealand, Sir Keith Holyoake, remarked to the UN General Assembly 21 years ago "we are a multiracial society. We are British, we are Maori. We are Polynesian. We are also Chinese, Danish, Yugoslav, Indian, Dutch and others." "Some", Sir Keith continued, "might see this cultural diversity as a liability or as a source of friction. We do not. It is a strength."

Yet the Netherlands' contribution to New Zealand extends beyond the gift of its migrants here, remarkable though that may be.

Dutch corporate investment is also an enduring feature of New Zealand's economy.

Two Dutch companies stand out as household names in New Zealand.

Philips have manufactured and distributed a wide range of electronic goods.

I hope I will not be accused of commercial favouritism in saying the name Philips has come to assume a reputation for reliability and safety in the New Zealand market.

Another Dutch company, Shell Oil, has been active in New Zealand's transport-fuels sector since the 1920s.

Shell has also contributed actively to the exploration and development of our indigenous fuels industry.

These Dutch companies - and others which arrived more recently - underline the success of the Netherlands as a nation of traders and investors.

We too have learnt that to prosper we have to trade.

Mr Prime Minister, I welcome you also as the leader of a nation at the heart of Europe.

The Netherlands is at the forefront of both the single market in Europe and Europe's outreach to the Asia-Pacific.

Prime Minister, we watch events in Europe closely - for several reasons.

First, there are the family and cultural connections, particularly with the British Isles and with the Netherlands.

And, despite the diversification of our commerce, the European Union remains a crucially important market, as well as a source of investment and technology.

We also watch Europe closely as much of our history is written on its battlefields.

Beyond the two World Wars we remain in Europe, this time in Croatia - alongside the Netherlands - making our contribution to international peace and security.

Because of our experience of war in Europe we regard with hope and expectation the cause of European unity.

The end of conflict and the creation of an outward-looking European Union committed to peaceful interdependence is very much in the world's interest.

The Netherlands has been in the forefront of this development.

Prime Minister, your country has shown the world that a small country can be a good regional and global citizen and still retain the essence of a distinctive national identity.

This is a legacy which we also like to see as our own.

In many ways we reflect similar views. Our common membership of international forums is a case in point.

We approach many of the world's problems in a similar way: working for progress in a practical but enlightened fashion.

Some observers have claimed this is simply an alphabetical accident.

That because the Netherlands and New Zealand sit alongside each other in the UN, and elsewhere, we either swap notes or use the same text!

I think not.

What is true is that the fundamental values we hold in common, make it likely that our countries will adopt similar views on such diverse issues as disarmament, human rights, international development and multilateral trade.

In recent years, our respective regions have undergone significant change.

For us, the relationship with Australia and with the wider Asia-Pacific region has assumed a new significance, politically as well as economically.

These are natural developments but not ones that are, or need be, exclusive in nature. In fact the opposite is the case.

The opening up of the New Zealand economy and its essential global orientations - which of course finds its mirror in the Netherlands - makes it more likely than ever that we will meet and compete - but always as friends - not just in our respective countries but also in the market places of Europe, Asia and elsewhere in this rapidly shrinking world.

But for the time being, Mr Prime Minister and Mrs Kok, we are very happy that you are here among us as good friends, indeed as family from overseas.

You are almost a New Zealander now, as we together watched a New Zealand-bred horse win today's Melbourne Cup.

I wish you a very productive visit here and in Australia, and a safe journey home and a safe arrival.

In today's politics arriving home can be the dangerous part.