Kia ora. Nga mihi o te tau hou. New Year greetings to you all.
Marking anniversaries like the New Year is central to understanding our place in the world, and the events that have shaped our lives. Anniversaries can be times to celebrate past glories and successes, or to reflect on the meaning of tragedies and losses.
2012 was a year with both types of anniversaries. On February 6, as we marked the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, we also celebrated the 60 years Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has been our Queen. The Diamond Jubilee year was an opportunity to reflect on Her Majesty’s service to us. Later in the year we hosted the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, who were warmly welcomed by thousands of New Zealanders.
On February 22, 16 days after Waitangi Day, New Zealanders stopped at 12.51pm to mark the first anniversary of the tragic earthquake in Christchurch. It was a time to honour the lives of those we lost, and to look to the rebuilding of Christchurch, which has now begun in earnest. It was also a year when we considered how we might respond to such events in the future.
2013 will mark two quite different anniversaries. This year is the centenary of the last year of peace, before two world wars in 30 years engulfed our world. From 2014 onwards we will mark a series of centenaries in the First World War, including the fateful landings at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.
It was once said that: “Peace is the dream of the wise, and war is the history of man .” That contrast is seen most vividly at the National War Memorial in Wellington. While the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior stands as a silent sentinel of the sacrifice of those who died to keep our nation free, the Hall of Memories is dominated by a beautiful bronze sculpture of a grieving mother comforting her children. The sculpture is a poignant reminder of the families left behind when our soldiers, sailors and airmen and airwomen have headed overseas to defend our nation from tyranny, or to bring peace to troubled lands. Both memorials also remind us of the tragic losses New Zealand has suffered, including in Afghanistan in the last year.
The sculpture also reminds us of the role of women in our society, especially as 2013 marks 120 years of women’s suffrage. In 1893, New Zealand became the first nation in the world to grant women the right to vote. Since that time, women have made an ever widening contribution to our society in fields as diverse as government, business, the law, the arts, science, medicine and sport. As 2013 begins and we make our resolutions for the New Year, we recall the contribution of women to New Zealand and the many privileges we enjoy.
Have a safe and happy summer holiday.
Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM QSO
Governor-General of New Zealand