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Source: New Zealand Governor General

Kia orana kōtou katoatoa.

First of all, I’d like to acknowledge the powerful turou we just experienced. I also wish to acknowledge members of local government, and leaders from the Cook Islands here today. And of course, to the students of Araura College, Apii Vaitau and Tekaaroa School – thank you for the warm welcome you’ve given me and His Excellency Dr Davies.

As Governor-General, it’s been one of the great highlights of my term to have this opportunity to visit the Cook Islands. We’ve particularly enjoyed the opportunity to meet so many young Cook Islanders, who have expressed such pride in calling these beautiful islands home.

Yesterday, I was pleased to attend the first graduation from Te Vānanga Are Tapere o Takitumu – a very special place where the language and culture of the Cook Islands is nurtured and grown – as well as the launch of Healthy Schools Programme, and a beautiful celebration of Matariki.

As I’m sure you all know, the Cook Islands and Aotearoa New Zealand share a sacred bond through our common ancestors, who travelled such extraordinary distances in search of new lands and homes. Some of you may be aware of my own ties to the Cook Islands through my voyaging ancestors – who left on the vaka Mataatua, and arrived in the north of New Zealand, settling as Ngāpuhi iwi.

That deep and enduring bond between our two countries is described in the whakataukī: ‘He waka hourua, he waka eke noa. A double-hulled waka bound by a common purpose.’

Bound so closely through our shared histories, we are better able to face the future together – and it is not a future without challenges. As we’ve seen so clearly in recent months, climate change continues to have a significant impact across our communities.

On behalf of all New Zealanders, I wish to take this opportunity to extend my very sincerest thanks to the Aitutaki community, for the funds you raised for New Zealand in response to the impacts of Cyclone Gabrielle.

I am very much looking forward to touring Aitutaki later this morning. I know an important aspect of my tour will be seeing and understanding how climate change is affecting your island: how rising ocean temperatures have impacted the marine life in the lagoon, and how storms have eroded Aitutaki’s coastline.

I understand how worrying the issue of climate change is to the Cooks Islands, and our neighbours across the Pacific. New Zealand is a part of that Pacific community, and we will continue to stand alongside one another in protecting the natural world for our future generations.

I wish finally to encourage all the students here today to enjoy and make the most of your journey of learning. School was an extremely important and happy time in my life – a time when I came to better know myself, my interests, and the sort of person I hoped to become.

I hope you take the knowledge and the skills you gain in the coming years, and use them for the good of your whānau, communities, and wider society. And I am confident, down whichever of life’s paths you choose to follow, you will take with you a deep sense of pride in where you’ve come from – and share that pride with others.

My sincerest thanks once again, for mine and Dr Davies’ warm welcome to your beautiful home.

Manaaki whenua, manaaki tangata, haere whakamua.