The 50th Parliament has opened with the Government committing to build a more competitive economy in spite of the testing times New Zealand has recently faced.

The speech from the throne, written by the Government, was delivered by Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae, and outlined the Government's programme for the next term, delivering no surprises.

Sir Jerry spoke about the global financial crisis, the Canterbury earthquakes, as he reflected on the challenges the country had faced in the last three years.

"But in the worst of times we have seen the best of New Zealanders, as they have risen to these challenges,'' he said.

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"The economy is recovering, having grown in eight of the past nine quarters, and 63,000 more people are employed now compared to two years ago.

"This recovery is forecast to continue.''

The European debt crisis was the biggest risk now facing the country, but the Government was in a relatively good position to deal with the fall-out, Sir Jerry said.

The Government's plans to sell shares in state assets to pay for new projects, to reform the welfare system, and to introduce a "starting-out-wage'' for young people.

Sir Jerry also spoke about new legislation that would be brought in to strengthen sentencing, parole and bail laws, saying it would be harder for those charged with serious offences to get bail.

With regard to Christchurch's earthquake recovery, Sir Jerry reiterated that $5.5 billion that had been put aside to rebuild the city, and that the Government was committed to completing the process of establishing structural damage so homeowners could have certainty.

The Government also committed to make settling historic Treaty of Waitangi claims a priority.

"The fact that this is the 50th Parliament gives us cause to celebrate,'' Sir Jerry said.

"New Zealand can boast of an unbroken parliamentary democracy stretching back to the 1850s, and universal suffrage from 1893.''