Less than a month after farewelling its first Governor-General of Maori descent, New Zealand has another after former Defence Force chief Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae was sworn in yesterday.
Sir Jerry, of the Ngati Tuwharetoa and Ngati Kuhungunu iwi, formally took on his new role in a ceremony on the steps of Parliament flanked by his wife, Lady Janine, and their children, iwi members, and political, judicial, and military leaders.
The ceremony was attended by a large group of dignitaries, a combined forces honour guard, a kapa group and several hundred spectators.
Sir Jerry swore an oath of allegiance and oath of office in the presence of Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias and the Government's executive council, including Prime Minister John Key.
Mr Key said Sir Jerry, who at 56 is one of the country's youngest governors-general, already had a record of exemplary service in the military and more recently as head of the Government Security Communications Bureau.
"He is a warm, engaging and highly regarded New Zealander. I believe Sir Jerry will bring great mana and a wide range of qualities to this role, including judgment, energy and enthusiasm for encouraging excellence in others.
"I'm sure Sir Jerry will find his own way to bring his experience and interests to the role of Governor-General."
In his first public words as Governor-General, Sir Jerry told his audience he would draw on the example of the men and women who had preceded him as he served the Queen and the people of New Zealand.
But it was with "considerable sadness" that Sir Jerry remembered New Zealand's first Maori Governor-General, Sir Paul Reeves, "a generous, thoughtful and compassionate man" who died last month.
He also acknowledged his immediate predecessor, Sir Anand Satyanand, and his wife, Lady Susan, "for their contributions in the role", made with "dignity, warmth and compassion".
He noted that the past 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."
The former elite 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. "You will see we are ordinary folk who have been given a special opportunity."
The ceremony ended with a 21-gun salute and a waiata koroua before Sir Jerry inspected the honour guard.
- additional reporting NZPA