Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae gives farewell speech

By Leo Horgan

New Zealand’s Māori Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae has saluted Aotearoa in a speech to assembled dignitaries at his state farewell luncheon this afternoon.

Mateparae is the second Māori to hold the position of Governor-General after the late Sir Paul Reeves, who represented Queen Elizabeth II in New Zealand from 1985 to 1990.

Mateparae has spoken fondly of the challenges he faced in the role.

“At my swearing-in ceremony in 2011, I spoke about the extraordinary honour that had been bestowed upon us.  At the same time, I acknowledged just a little trepidation about what the next five years might bring,” says Mateparae, “There wasn’t much time to dwell on those conflicting emotions – because within the first three months of coming into office, we had the Pacific Islands Forum, the Rugby World Cup and an election.  That pace has not let up in the intervening years!”

The outgoing Governor-General has also spoken of the honour of representing Aotearoa as a member of the Commonwealth and international community.

“It has been a privilege to represent New Zealand overseas,” says Mateparae, “Whether it be on state visits; for commemorations including Gallipoli, Cassino and the Normandy landings; at the Olympic or Commonwealth Games; or at funerals for heads of state.”

The ANZAC commemorations were also singled out as a particularly memorable personal aspect of the role.

“The commemorative events have been poignant moments for reflection about suffering, loss and sacrifice,” says Mateparae, “No more so than on the Gallipoli Peninsula – at Anzac Cove and Chunuk Bair.  Like many New Zealanders, I have only recently found out more about my own family’s military heritage – what part my grandfathers had in the First World War.

 “As I walked where my koroua – Rawiri Mateparae – had, on the slopes below Chunuk Bair, the huge challenges that our soldiers faced during that ill-fated campaign, and an appreciation of their courage, commitment, comradeship and sacrifice became very personal.”

Mateparae has spoken of his pride in the establishment of an Artist in Residence Programme at Government House in Wellington, called Matairangi Mahi Toi, which focusses on Māori and Pasifika visual artists. 

The outgoing Governor-General has also spoken of hosting a number of memorable sessions held at Government House.  These included a session on youth suicide, particularly among Māori and Pasifika people, and another to forge a covenant for how to nurture the nation’s children.

Despite references to meeting the Queen, the Pope and other international dignitaries, Mateparae’s speech returned repeatedly to the theme of ordinary New Zealanders making his term as Governor-General particularly special.

“We have been privileged to travel the length and beadth of New Zealand, and to engage with New Zealanders, said Mateparae, “As we step away from this office, it is friendships and unforgettable encounters that will leave the greatest impression.

“New Zealanders have shared with us their experiences - their triumphs, their tragedies, and their dreams.  We have been inspired by their achievements, and the contributions they have made in their communities and for New Zealand.”

Mateparae’s term as Governor General ends on the 31st August.  He will be replaced by Dame Patsy Reddy who is to be sworn in on the 14th of September.