Together with forty-three Heads of Diplomatic Missions accredited to New Zealand based in Wellington and in Canberra and Tokyo, Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand Virginia H. Benavidez attended the Waitangi National Day commemorations at the Bay of Islands from February 4 to 6.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) organized a well-rounded and highly informative programme that enabled the participants to experience and see first-hand where the actual signing of the Treaty of Waitangi took place in 1840 and the historical places and ceremonies that have become an integral part of New Zealand’s national day celebrations every year. The Ambassadors and High Commissioners were warmly welcomed at the Te Tii Marae (Maori Meeting House) by the Chiefs and Elders of the Nga Puhi tribe, the largest Maori tribe in New Zealand. The Te Tii Marae is a historical site steeped in Maori legacy and tradition built in 1940 to mark the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. When the Heads of Mission were invited to speak, Ambassador Benavidez conveyed the greetings of the Philippine Government and the Filipino people on the occasion of New Zealand’s National Day, thanked the Maori hosts in the Maori language and ended with the Maori saying signifying unity and friendship with one another. The Morning Tea hosted by Governor General Lt. Gen. Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine Mateparae and the Reception and Dinner by Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully provided excellent opportunities for the Heads of Mission to reiterate Waitangi day greetings and appreciation for their graciousness and hospitality. The breakfast and Foreign Policy presentations hosted by MFAT Secretary John Allen and the business presentations by leading local companies enabled the Heads of Mission to learn more about key updates, priorities and directions of MFAT and the economic and entrepreneurial activities in the Northland, respectively. The Maori cultural performance of the Te Pitowhenua, visit to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and historical town of Russell and attendance at the Ceremony of the Beat Retreat and Dawn Service were most meaningful and memorable in gaining in-depth knowledge about Maori culture and heritage, the subsequent journey to nationhood and the foundation of present-day New Zealand.
“This year’s Waitangi day experience enriched my knowledge of how a defining moment in 1840 ushered the peaceful founding of a multicultural nation and a shared basis for many peoples and communities to move forward in unity distinctly marked by enduring partnerships and constructive engagement,” Ambassador Benavidez stated.
She joined the Heads of Mission in reiterating their deep appreciation to MFAT officials and the Protocol Team led by Chief of Protocol Caroline Bilkey and all those who made it possible to have a successful Waitangi Day 2014 programme and insightful experience of commemorating New Zealand’s national day right where the founding document was signed 174 years ago.
Photos and articles courtesy of DFA press release, 25 February 2014.