New Zealand High Commission Port Vila, Vanuatu

New Zealand and Vanuatu:Pacific Partners

Speech delivered by New Zealand High Commissioner HE Bill Dobbie, on February 6 to commemorate Waitangi Day 2013.

Tihei mauri ora.

I would like to welcome you in three languages. In the two national languages of New Zealand, Maori and English. And in Bislama, the national language of Vanuatu.

E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga rangatira. Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Long olgeta bigman, long olgeta  lanwij, long olgeta pipol we istap long ples ia tedei. Welkam, welkam, welkam long yufala evriwan.

To the dignitaries, nationalities and people who have gathered here today. Greetings, greetings, greetings to you all.

I am pleased to welcome you to this commemoration of Waitangi Day, New Zealand's national day.

However, before I talk about Waitangi Day, I would like to touch on something that happened today. And that is to thank the Vanuatu Department of Meteorology and Geohazards, and the National Disaster Management Office, for their prompt action in issuing a tsunami advisory following the magnitude 8 earthquake that struck north of Santo at lunchtime today. Fortunately, the worst did not happen, but quick reaction enabled many people to be well prepared for it.

This may also be a good time to encourage all of the New Zealanders gathered here tonight to register with the New Zealand High Commission, or to update your registration details. You can do this by visiting the New Zealand Government's "safe travel" wbesite. The purpose of this register is to help as find you in an emergency, so we can check on your well-being, or to send you important information. But I should stress that it is no substitute for the tsunami and cyclone warnings issued by the Vanuatu authorities.

Before I talk about Waitangi Day, I would also like to  acknowledge two important events that have happened since we last celebrated Waitangi Day, which were  important milestones in Vanuatu's post-independence history.

On the 30th of October last year, Vanuatu held its tenth general election since independence. On that day, I was privileged to observe voters in Port Vila and Efate exercising their constitutional and democratic right to chose their Members of Parliament. I would like to pay tribute to the people of Vanuatu for the orderly and peaceful way in which they exercised that right, which, as the Constitution of Vanuatu reminds us, they earned through their pre-independence struggle for freedom. And I would like to congratulate Prime Minister Sato Kilman and his Council of Ministers for their subsequent election and appointment to the Executive Branch of Government.

Honourable Prime Minister, the New Zealand Government looks forward to working with you and your government in the spirit of partnership and mutual respect and trust that you highlighted in your inauguration speech at the Parliament Buildings on the 19th of November.

In June, last year, Vanuatu stepped onto the international stage by hosting the ACP-EU Joint Ministerial Meetings. This was a major undertaking, which involved senior government representatives from over 100 countries participating in a week of carefully choreographed events. I would like to pay tribute to the government and people of Vanuatu for their warm and successful hosting of these meetings, which also helped to raise international awareness of trade and economic development challenges facing the island states of our Pacific region.

As I mentioned earlier, we are here, tonight to celebrate Waitangi Day, New Zealand's national day. Waitangi Day is a bit different from many other countries's national days. It doesn't celebrate the achievement of independence from colonial rule, as Vanuatu's does. It doesn't commemorate the overthrow of an autocratic government, as France's does. It doesn't commemorate the unification of several states into a single nation, as Australia's does.

What Waitangi Day commemorates is the partnership that exists between the New Zealand Government and the indegenous people of New Zealand, the Maori.

Waitangi Day is named after the Treaty of Waitangi, which was signed on the sixth of February, 1840, by representatives of the British Crown and Maori chiefs. The Treaty was signed at the small settlement of Waitangi, in the Far North of New Zealand.

The Treaty of Waitangi has become New Zealand's founding document. It has enabled New Zealand to become the dynamic Pacific nation we are today. A nation that acknowledges the rights of its indegenous people, the Maori, nga tangata whenua, ol manples. A nation that forms the third corner of the "Polynesian Triangle". A nation that is connected to the Pacififc region by people, tradition, language, geography and destiny.

Today, the Treaty of Waitangi defines the relationship between the New Zealand Government and Maori. A key principle of that relationship is partnership.

Since 1840, this principle has not always been honoured in dealings between the Crown and Maori. But, as a nation, we are working to address the mistakes of the past, and to give full effect of the principle of partnership that is at the heart of the Treaty.

New Zealand's relationship with Vanuatu is also a partnership that dates back to the 1840s, when the Melanesian Mission first came from New Zealand to the islands of Vanuatu.

I was reminded of this when I visited the island of Nguna in North Efate, last year, to open a kindergarten building that the New Zealand Aid Programme had helped to build. For the people of Nguna, the relationship between our two countries didn't start with the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1980, or with the opening of the New Zealand High Commission in Port Vila in 1987. For them, the relationship started in 1870, when Peter Milne of the New Zealand Presbyterian Mission arrived on their island.

For them, it is living a relationship. It has strong historical roots, but it continues to flourish and grow. It lives on through the descendants of Peter Milne, who make regluar return visits from New Zealand to Nguna. It lives on through the young men and women of Nguna who travel each year to New Zealand as scholarship students, or as RSE workers. It lives on through the children of Taloa village, who joined me in celebrating the opening of their new kindergarten last October. And it lives on in their island language, which is connected to the Maori Language.

As with the island of Nguna, the relationship that New Zealand has with Vanuatu is strong because it has deep roots, but it also has many branches that continue to flourish and grow. The roots reflect the commitment that New Zealand made to Vanuatu in 1980, when we established diplomatic relations, to help Vanuatu safeguard the achievements of its struggle for independence. The branches reflect New Zealand's wish to continue working with Vanuatu to help it realise its full potential as a nation that is, in the words of the Vanuatu Government, "educated, healthy and wealthy".

Like Vanuatu, New Zealand wants the children of Vanuatu to have a good education, and to find work when they leave school.

Like Vanuatu, New Zealand wants the people of Vanuatu to have better roads and shipping services.

Like Vanuatu, New Zealand wants Vanuatu's economy to grow in a way that benefits all of its people so they may live in dignity and comfort.

New Zealand is committed to working with Vanuatu to help it achieve these goals. Through our aid programme. Through the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme, which has brought thousands of ni-Vanuatu to the heartland of New Zealand. Through tourism and trade. And through strong and growing relationship that exists between the governments and people of our two countries.

Relationships between governments are important. But so too are relationships between people. And the New Zealand-Vanuatu relationship is no exception.

Accordingly, I would like to pay tribute to the valuable contribution that the people of Vanuatu are making to the good relationship that exists between our two countries. To the RSE workers who tend our orchards and vineyards. To the young men and women who study at our schools and universities, including the 18 new New Zealand scholarship students who recently departed Port Vila. To the ordinary people of Vanuatu who act as warm and gracious hosts to the thousands of New Zealand tourists who visit this beautiful and fascinating country every year.

I would also like to acknowledge the important role of the New Zealand community in Vanuatu. During my two years in Vanuatu, I have met many New Zealanders who are making a positive difference here. Some are business people, others are volunteers and aid workers. Some work for churches, others for charities. Some spend their days in classrooms, others in hospitals and government offices. Many live in Port Vila, but some can be found in remote islands, from Torres in the North to Aneityum in the South. The good work of these New Zealanders ensures that the relationship between our two countries is not only close, but personal.

Now in keeping with the partnership that unites our two Pacific Island Countries, New Zealand and Vanuatu, I would like to close my speech in the three languages I started with. Maori, Bislama and English.

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Tank yu tumas long attensen blong yufala evriwan.

I would now like to propose a toast to the President of the Republic of Vanuatu.

"To his Excellency Iolu Johnson Abbil, the President of the Republic of Vanuatu, and to the people of Vanuatu".

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