The honour of being appointed New Zealand's new governor-general is still sinking in, Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae says.
At his swearing-in ceremony on Parliament's forecourt this morning, Wanganui-born former Defence Force chief Sir Jerry paid tribute to his predecessors and also to the spirit New Zealanders had shown in difficult recent times.
Sir Jerry said his appointment as governor-general was "an extraordinary honour'' that was still sinking in.
"Almost every day over the past six months I've reflected on this honour, and when I woke up this morning I gave myself one more pinch just in case!''
However, he admitted to some trepidation when thinking of the duties that lay ahead for himself and his wife, Lady Janine, in his five-year term, although that had been somewhat alleviated by the support they'd since the appointment was announced six months ago.
"During that time, as a family we've both prepared ourselves and been prepared by others for the opportunities that will come with the role. We have been heartened by the generosity of spirit and support that many New Zealanders have shown in congratulating us. Strangers have approached us in the street and in shops to wish us well.''
Sir Jerry said he would draw on the example of the men and women who had preceded him as governors general as he served the Queen and the people of New Zealand.
"All brought their unique qualities, character, energy and mana to the role. They have been steadfast, like: Te toka tu moana (the rock standing in the ocean). The example they have set gives me cause to be optimistic about what lies ahead, and that has been confirmed as I have drawn on the wisdom of five of my predecessors.''
Sir Jerry remembered one of those - New Zealand's first Maori Governor-General Sir Paul Reeves - who died earlier this month - "with considerable sadness''.
He also took his first formal opportunity to publicly acknowledge his immediate predecessor Sir Anand Satyanand and his wife Lady Susan "for their contributions in the role'' offered with "dignity, warmth and compassion''.
Sir Jerry said he would serve faithfully and impartially, and the values and undertakings in the oaths had taken were important to him.
He noted that the last 12 months had brought some difficult times to New Zealand.
"However, as a people New Zealanders, whether we be of Maori, British, European, Pacific Island, Asian or other descent, have cause to see a silver lining in adversity. The Kiwi spirit - companionship and with that a generosity, compassion and resolve when things need to be done - has been evident. ''
Describing himself as an ordinary man, the former SAS trooper said he and Lady Janine would take the opportunity to meet and talk to as many New Zealanders as possible during his term.
To those he had yet to meet, Sir Jerry said he believed the essence of being a New Zealander meant was encapsulated by Sir Edmund Hillary when he said: "In some ways I believe I epitomise the average New Zealander: I have modest abilities, I combine these with a good deal of determination, and I rather like to succeed''.
He promised that when New Zealanders met him and Lady Janine: "You will see we are ordinary folk who have been given a special opportunity. It is our hope that we can encourage people to think about how New Zealanders can make a difference.''