YHA 75th Anniversary Dinner

YHA 75th Anniversary Dinner, Arts Centre, Christchurch
5 May 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, I greet you in the languages of the realm of New Zealand - English, Maori, Cook Island Maori, Niuean, Tokelauan and Sign Language.

Greetings, Kia Ora, Kia Orana, Fakalofa Lahi Atu, Taloha Ni and (Sign)

I specifically acknowledge you:  Hon Damien O'Connor, Minister of Tourism; Ross Butler, Chairman, YHA; Mark Wells, Chief Executive; Deputy Mayor of Christchurch Carole Evans; Representatives of the Wilding family, Dave and Allison wilding; International Youth Hostel Federation Delegates; YHA Volunteers and Staff; Invited Guests.

Thank you for inviting my wife Susan and I to share in the celebrations for the 75th Anniversary of YHA New Zealand.

It was, of course, a given that we would be here tonight, as I am erstwhile patron of this standout New Zealand organisation in a line unbroken for 47 years since my predecessor Viscount Cobham took up the position in 1960.

Tonight I look forward to hearing substantively about the history and the evolution of the YHA.  In preparing for tonight, I mined the necessary knowledge of how the YHA came to be in New Zealand which is indeed a fascinating tale of determination and succeeding against the odds and of strong leadership.

It is a success story substantially attributable to a Christchurch woman Cora Wilding, a woman who came to be respected in equal measures for her warmth and her iron will.

That story and its telling of the story is best left to others tonight, but I do want to take the opportunity to acknowledge the vital role Cora played in establishing YHA New Zealand - initially in the Banks Peninsula, and the through to the West Coast and beyond.

She found an ally in Sir Arthur Dudley Dobson, President of the Automobile Association and the man New Zealanders can thank for discovering the Arthur's Pass route through the Southern Alps.

Together, under the umbrella of the Sunlight League, the pair led the early years of the YHA in New Zealand.

Their legacy is an Association whose membership I am told now totals more than 23,000, and which serves as friendly and accessible accommodation not just for New Zealanders, but for our international guests as well.

In my experience, organisation which celebrate milestones such as this, and who as part of their celebrations recount a history of growth, tend to be indebted to a great many people.  It is the people who make an organisation.

As the well-known Maori proverb says:

E raka te maui, e raka te katau

A community can use all the skills of its people

This is certainly the case with the YHA.  Many thousands of New Zealanders are part of the wider YHA community and they are jointly responsible for its evolution and success.

They are the people who have taken inspiration from the kindred spirits Wilding and Dobson, and have helped their original vision take it current shape.

I doubt even Cora and Sir Arthur could have imagined that YHA would become such a statement for New Zealand recreational culture.

May I congratulate, and thank all of those volunteers, and staff who have helped make YHA New Zealand such an iconic feature of holidaying in New Zealand.

I began speaking in all the New Zealand realm languages.  May I close by speaking in Maori issuing greetings and wishing you good health and fortitude in your endeavours.

No reira, tena koutou, kia ora, kia kaha tena koutou katoa.

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