New Zealand High Commission Port Vila, Vanuatu

New Zealand and Vanuatu: Pacific partners

Speech delivered by the New Zealand High Commissioner to Vanuatu, HE Bill Dobbie, on 6 February 2014, at the New Zealand Official Residence, to commemorate Waitangi Day

Tena koutou katoa.  Welcome.  Gud evening long yufala evriwan.

I would like to begin my speech by welcoming 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, rau rangatira ma, tena koutou katoa.

To the dignitaries, nationalities, chiefs and people who are gathered here tonight, welcome to you all.

Mi wantem talem “welkam” long ol bigman, ol jif mo ol pipol we oli stap long ples ia tonaet, mo sem taem mi wantem acknowledgem ol lanwis mo ol kastom blong yufala.

I am pleased to welcome you to this commemoration of Waitangi Day, New Zealand’s National Day.

But before I talk about Waitangi Day, I would like to mention some important events that have happened since we last celebrated our National Day.

Last year, the Honourable Moana Carcasses Katokai Kalosil was elected Prime Minister of the Republic of Vanuatu.  Honourable Prime Minister, while you have attended many Waitangi Day events at our place, it is a particular honour to have you here tonight for the first time in your new role.

On behalf of the New Zealand Government, may I congratulate the Honourable Prime Minister and Marie-Louise for the recent arrival of their baby boy, Moana-iti.  We wish them all the best.

On a sadder note, I would also like to express the New Zealand Government’s condolences for two friends of New Zealand in Vanuatu, who recently passed away.  The Honourable Patrick Crowby Manurewo, whose service as Minister of Internal Affairs and Lord Mayor of Port Vila we remember.  And the late Neil Croucher, who was a prominent member of the New Zealand community in Santo until his untimely death last July.  Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends.

As I mentioned earlier, we are here tonight to commemorate Waitangi Day, New Zealand’s national day.

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

It 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 Pacific nation that we are today.  A nation that acknowledges and respects the rights of its indigenous people, the Maori, nga tangata whenua.  A nation that forms the third corner of the “Polynesian Triangle”.  A nation that is connected to its Pacific neighbours 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 committed to addressing past mistakes and to implementing fully 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 mid-19th Century, when the Melanesian Mission first came from New Zealand to the islands of Vanuatu.

I was reminded of this important connection between our two countries, last August, when I attended a ceremony at State House in Port Vila.  At that ceremony, the President, His Excellency Iolu Johnson Abbil, awarded the Vanuatu Distinguished Service Medal to Ian Grey, a New Zealander who was the founding Principal of Onesua Presbyterian College in North Efate, from 1953 to 1960.  In that role, Ian Grey taught many young ni-Vanuatu, including some of its future independence leaders.

But this event was not just ceremonial.  It was also deeply personal.  Because the future President of Vanuatu was one of Ian Grey’s students.  And it was clear to me, as I observed them together, that the relationship of mutual respect that they established, all those years ago, had become a life-time bond.  And the presence of some of Mr Grey’s children and grand-children at this ceremony told me that the bond between these two families, one from New Zealand, one from Vanuatu, will endure for generations to come.

Starting over 160 years ago, successive New Zealand missionaries, such as Ian Grey, have given the relationship between New Zealand and Vanuatu deep and strong roots.

And today, these roots support the many contemporary branches of our relationship, which continue to flourish and grow:


  • Such as the New Zealand Aid Programme, which remains committed to helping the government and people of Vanuatu to achieve their vision of a “just, educated, healthy and wealthy nation”.


  • Such as the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme, which enabled 2,900 ni-Vanuatu to find work in New Zealand last year.


  • And such as the 15,000 New Zealand tourists who visit this beautiful and enchanting country each year.


As High Commissioner, I am deeply grateful to individual New Zealanders such as Ian Grey, because the ties that they and their Vanuatu counterparts have established between New Zealand and Vanuatu are, at heart, based on the people of our two countries.  Just as the Treaty of Waitangi is fundamentally about the relationship between the two peoples of New Zealand.

And, as Ian Grey and His Excellency the President showed me, last August, the ties that bind people are often the closest and the most enduring.  Which is exactly how the relationship between New Zealand and Vanuatu should be, and is.  Close, enduring, and based on mutual respect.

So, on that note, I would like to pay tribute to the members of the New Zealand Community in Vanuatu, including those here tonight, who are following in Ian Grey’s footsteps by making a positive difference here.  They may be here as volunteers, aid workers or business people.  They may work in schools, hospitals or court houses.  They may live in Port Vila or on remote islands.  But one thing that they have in common is that their good work is helping to ensure that the relationship between New Zealand and Vanuatu is not only close, but personal. 

Mo sem taem, mi wantem talem “tank yu tumas” long ol man Vanuatu we oli sapotem gud relesensip we Vanuatu i gat wetem Nyu Silan.  Olsem ol RSE wokman we oli lukaotem gud ol orchard mo ol vineyard blong Nyu Silan.  Olsem ol pikinini blong Vanuatu we oli stadi long ol skul mo ol university blong Nyu Silan.  Mo olsem ol staf blong ol turism bisnis we oli lukaotem gud ol man Nyu Silan we oli kam long Vanuatu.

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

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.  Kia kaha te whakanuia i to tatou ra o Waitangi.

Best wishes to you all, and thank you for attending our Waitangi Day celebrations.

Tank yu tumas long atensen blong yufala evriwan.  Mi glad tumas se yufala i save kam long ples ia blong celebratem Waitangi Day wetem mi mo ol man Nyu Silan we oli stap.

I would now like to propose a toast, which will be followed by the National Anthem of Vanuatu.

“To the Acting President of the Republic of Vanuatu, His Excellency, Philip Boedoro, and the people of Vanuatu”.


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