Today former Prime Minister Helen Clark will make the first of two September visits to the Western Bay for events marking 125 years since Kiwi women gained the vote.

Clark's itinerary in Tauranga included a mayoral reception, some light gardening at The Elms and delivering a sold-out talk at Holy Trinity Tauranga Church.

Suffrage 125 Tauranga committee member Debbie McCauley said she invited Clark, former head of the United Nations Development Programme, to the city via Facebook message.

"She's has always been a really inspirational figure to women, especially women of the next generation."

Advertisement
Former Prime Minister Helen Clark during an interview with the NZ Herald last month. Photo/Dean Purcell
Former Prime Minister Helen Clark during an interview with the NZ Herald last month. Photo/Dean Purcell

Clark will start her afternoon visit at The Elms, donning gumboots to plant three "Kate Sheppard" variety white camellia shrubs in the heritage garden being developed at the historical site.

McCauley said the planting was in memory and recognition of Alice Heron Maxwell, an 1893 Women's Suffrage Petition signatory who lived at The Elms for most of her life, 1887 to 1949.

A white camellia flower became the symbol of the New Zealand women's suffrage movement in 1893.

From there Clark will head to Tauranga City Council chambers to meet with Mayor Greg Brownless and around 50 other invitees.

Brownless said he would be welcoming Clark to Tauranga and expected it to be a fairly informal event.

At 6.30pm Clark will give a talk entitled "Are We There Yet?" at the Holy Trinity.

All 866 free tickets were snapped up shortly after release, McCauley said.

Tauranga librarian Michelle Anderson, photographed making rosettes at a Suffrage 125 sewing bee yesterday<note>THURS</note> will be among those hearing Helen Clark speak today. Photo/Andrew Warner
Tauranga librarian Michelle Anderson, photographed making rosettes at a Suffrage 125 sewing bee yesterdayTHURS will be among those hearing Helen Clark speak today. Photo/Andrew Warner

Clark will be introduced by Tauranga-based Labour MP Jan Tinetti, who says Clark is someone she has "long admired" but has only met once, on the campaign trail last year.

"She's one of those women who put New Zealand on the world stage."

For the main event, Clark will take part in a moderated discussion with Elizabeth Hughes, before taking questions from the audience.

McCauley said Clark would also be signing copies of her new book: Women Equality Power, a compilation of the key speeches of her career.

On September 15 Clark will be back in the Western Bay visiting Katikati as the guest speaker at the town's Suffrage 125 commemorations.

Symbol of suffrage

- The while camellia flower is the symbol of the suffrage movement
- Given to supporters in September 1893
- Often bloom in September, likely why they were chosen
- Traditionally worn on Suffrage Day, September 19
- Feature on the $10 note with suffrage leader Kate Sheppard
- 'Kate Sheppard' variety bred in 1993 for the suffrage centennial
- Bred by Taranaki camellia breeders Viv Joyce and Alf Gamlin.

- Source: Debbie McCauley