PHL Ambassador joins New Zealand's Waitangi Day commemorations 2015 at the Bay of Islands and government house in Wellington
Together with fifty-four Heads of Diplomatic Missions accredited to New Zealand based in Wellington, Canberra and Tokyo and officials from the Ministry of Trade and Foreign Affairs (MFAT), Philippine Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez attended the 175th Anniversary of the Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi National Day commemorations at the Bay of Islands on 4-6 February 2015. This is the second year that MFAT organized a well-rounded, meaningful and highly informative programme that enabled the Heads of Diplomatic Missions and Spouses 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. On 4 February 2015, after the welcome and introductory briefing by Ms. Joanna Kempkers, Chief of Protocol, a visit to the 1,627 hectare sheep, beef cattle and dairy cattle farm owned by Mr. Douglas and Anne Conn of the Woodburn Park Tangowhahine Ltd in Whangerei enabled the participants to see for themselves how a family operates a Northland Farm and know more about the importance of agriculture as the lifeblood of the economy in the region and throughout New Zealand. Briefings and actual farm demonstrations were made by Mr. Douglas Conn and family and Beef+Lamb New Zealand Chairman James Parsons.
The group proceeded to the Te Kura Hourua School for the development of young and talented Maoris who avail of customized learning on leadership, sports, performing arts, ICT, tutoring and other training and human resources development programmes. An interactive session with Northland Inc, the Regional Economic Development Agency showcased the various local and innovative businesses and provided the overview of Northland’s economic development programmes and priorities. Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully hosted a reception for the Heads of Diplomatic Missions who were able to convey greetings on the occasion of New Zealand’s National Day and appreciation for the excellent programme prepared by MFAT. On 5 February 2015, the Ambassadors and High Commissioners and Spouses 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 spoke in the Maori language and conveyed the greetings of the Philippine Government and the Filipino People on the occasion of Waitangi Day, conveyed best wishes for the continued peace, progress and prosperity of New Zealand and its people and for the close friendship and vital partnership between Filipinos and New Zealanders, thanked the Maori hosts for the gracious and heartwarming hospitality and ended with the Maori saying signifying unity and friendship with one another and the huge importance of a people based relationship. The Morning Tea hosted by Governor General Lt. Gen. The Rt. Hon. Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine Mateparae for the Heads of Diplomatic Missions provided an excellent opportunity for interaction and fellowship amidst the historical atmosphere and significance of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. 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 were most meaningful and memorable in learning more about Maori culture and heritage and the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi that ushered in the path to nationhood of New Zealand.
The luncheon hosted by MFAT Acting CEO Craig Hawke at the Duke of Marlborough in Russell enabled the Heads of Mission to learn more about key updates, priorities and directions of MFAT.
At the Bledisloe Garden Reception hosted by Their Excellencies The Governor General of New Zealand Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine Mateparae on 6 February 2015 at the Government House in Wellington, Ambassador Benavidez and the Heads of Diplomatic Mission were among the more than 3,000 guests who reiterated greetings and interacted with the Filipinos, New Zealanders and communities on this auspicious occasion. Several Filipinos were present highlighting the multicultural tapestry and ethnic diversity of New Zealand moving together in partnership and with a strong sense of community.
Ambassador Benavidez and the Heads of Mission reiterated their deep appreciation to MFAT officials and the Protocol Team and all those who made it possible to have another momentous and memorable Waitangi Day 2015 programme.