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I begin by greeting everyone in the languages of the realm of New Zealand, in English, Māori, Cook Island Māori, Niuean, Tokelauan and New Zealand Sign Language. Greetings, Kia Ora, Kia Orana, Fakalofa Lahi Atu, Taloha Ni and as it is the afternoon (Sign)
I then specifically greet you: Your Worship Len Brown, Mayor of Auckland and members of the Auckland Council; Mike Pope, Chairman of Trustees of the Potter Masonic Trust; Jack Hobbs, the General Manager of the Auckland Botanic Gardens; Friends of the Auckland Botanic Gardens; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for inviting my wife Susan and I to the official opening of this wonderful extension to the Potter Children’s Garden at the Auckland Botanic Gardens.
I have been asked to unveil a plaque, and just before I do, I would like to speak of the importance of gardening to New Zealanders, and particularly to children in our country.
I am conscious of being an Aucklander with much of my life spent in this beautiful city but so as not to sail under any false flag I must admit to not being one blessed with any notable green thumb. Any matter calling for gardening finesse for example will need to be referred to Susan who is an accomplished plantswoman and gardener who has encouraged each of our children in that regard and who is about to be able to do the same with our three young grandchildren.
However, as Governor-General, with supervision I have planted a great many trees marking special events in many parts of our country. There have been sufficient to consider thinking of applying for carbon credits!
New Zealanders have always been known as enthusiastic and proficient gardeners. The early European explorers noted that Māori kept large, neat gardens, mainly growing kumara sited on north-facing slopes to catch the sun.
Many of the settlers who arrived here in the 19th century were from rural backgrounds. They brought gardening skills with them and grew their own vproduce.
Half a century ago in my boyhood it was common for households to have a big vegetable garden at the back of the house often tended by the father of the house and a flower garden at the front of the house looked after by the mother.
There was also in those quarter acre section days often quite a large lawn, looked after by the children, who took turns in the regular chore of mowing the lawn. As someone who grew up in the Auckland, with much sunshine and plenty of rain, I can easily bring all three to mind!
Children usually learnt about gardening by working in the garden. David Veart, who has written a book on New Zealand food called First Catch Your Weka, remembered that when he was growing up in Onehunga in the 1950s and 1960s, his jobs in the garden included “weeding, watering—and white butterfly patrols”.
Children also learnt about gardening at school. School gardens multiplied during the Second World War, when both girls and boys were encouraged to have a garden at home as part of the government’s “Dig for Victory” campaign.
While school gardening, and vegetable gardening in general, declined as the 20th century progressed, in more recent times there has been something of a turnaround in that trend.
School gardens are flourishing, particularly in the Auckland area. I am told that more than a hundred schools and kindergartens in this region have gardens.
Dee Pigneguy, who has been a mentor for many Auckland school garden initiatives, and has written two books on gardening for children, called Growing Gardeners and Gardening for Planet Earth, and she puts it this way: “Through gardening, children understand that they are part of nature. They develop a sense of responsibility because they have to look after the plants. And they become peers with the adults they work with—because their understanding is just as valuable as anyone else’s.”
For five years, the children of Auckland have had the Potter Children’s Garden from which to learn and to enjoy. This garden has doubtless inspired them in their school and home gardening activities and I expect this extension will spark plenty more growth.
I would like to commend all those who have contributed towards this extension to the garden – particularly to the Potter Masonic Trust.
On a note combining congratulations and anticipation of a bright future it therefore gives me great pleasure to declare the newly extended Potter Children’s Garden open.
And with the formalities almost complete, I will close in New Zealand’s first language, offering everyone greetings and wishing you all good health and fortitude in your endeavours. No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, kia ora, kia kaha, tēnā koutou katoa.