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Source: New Zealand Governor General

Kei āku rangatira, ngā māngai o te taiao

Nau mai hoki mai ano ki tēnei kaupapa angitu

Ahakoa he nui ngā mahi kei mua,

kia whakamaumahara ki tēnei:

He pai ake te iti, i te kore

Tēnā tātou katoa.

Distinguished guests, protectors of the environment, welcome again to another of these auspicious events.

Though the work ahead seems a lot, remember that small steps are better than none.

It’s a privilege and a real delight to welcome you all here, face- to- face, after the disruptions of the past few weeks.

A special welcome to those of you who have travelled to be here today.

Yesterday I hosted a fascinating forum of youth and sustainability directors who heard progress reports from each of the working groups and provided some passionate and thoughtful feedback on the issues raised.

I am sure Sir Rob would have been delighted that his vision for a sustainable Aotearoa New Zealand and a collaborative approach to change, is being embraced by so many organisations around New Zealand.

My sincere thanks to CoChairs Sir Chris Mace and Vicky Robertson and your fellow Board members for building on this momentum and continuing the important work of the Aotearoa Circle.

And my thanks also to Vicki Watson for your tireless engagement and leadership of the Aotearoa Circle and to those of you who have taken on the responsibility of chairing a workstream and have applied your talent and expertise to finding sustainable pathways to prosperity – in the marine environment, and in finance, agriculture, transport, food and energy.

The breadth of leadership and expertise represented here today is clear reinforcement – if any were needed – that we cannot afford to lose this momentum in our efforts to address the existential challenges of our times.

As someone who has worked in both the private and public sector – and is therefore appreciative of what each has to offer, as well as the different perspectives they represent – I am delighted that the Aotearoa Circle has provided the means for you all to come together.

You will all know from experience that some of your best ideas have come at a time of crisis – when indecision, prevarication and denial are simply not viable options.

This is one of those times, when we must embrace the Aotearoa Circle’s ethos of “Carpe Diem!” – and indeed seize the day.

That sense of purpose has been evident from day one. I was impressed with the speedy delivery of the completed Fenwick Report following last year’s Fenwick Forum.

The Circle’s influence is becoming increasingly apparent and I wish you every success with getting further traction in the public agenda.

At a time when many of us have been pre-occupied with a global pandemic, it’s gratifying to learn of the impressive growth in the number of partners of Aotearoa Circle and that there has been no let-up with your workstreams.

It aligns with the momentum for change I have seen in our communities during my time in office.

In my travel around the motu I have seen growing numbers of initiatives using sustainable business practice and nature-based solutions, whether it’s the restoration of wetlands and native forests;

predator and pest control;

the manufacture and use of bio-fuels;

food rescue organisations;

innovative agricultural and horticultural production; and

the growing recognition and incorporation of matauranga Māori and tikanga Māori.

I am also pleased that more of our conservation heroes are receiving the public approbation of a royal honour at investiture ceremonies.

So many good people are working to find better ways of living our lives and doing business in a way that restores and sustains the environment.

There is an appetite to do things differently.  I think COVID has, in an unexpected way, helped in that process by forcing us to do things differently, and to stop and think about what kind of new normal we want.

There is greater public awareness about the state of our soil, water, and air, as well as the threats to our biodiversity. The climate crisis is now firmly on the public agenda.   

Public anxiety and concern about these matters will no doubt give additional impetus to your actions and recommendations.   After all, there will be no magic vaccine to cure our planet.

At the same time, there are more good news stories to bring to public attention – about committed people and organisations that are leading the charge for change, and making a positive difference.

I look forward to a time when every individual, every school, council, corporate, cooperative, NGO, hapu and iwi Māori, has a clear understanding of the part they can play in halting further degradation of the environment and restoring it to health – and that they commit to fulfilling those responsibilities.

Last year’s Fenwick Forum Report, and the Sustainable Finance Forum Roadmap for Action show how effectively you are able to communicate these responsibilities and clearly signpost the way forward for us all.

Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.