Speech by King Willem-Alexander at the State Banquet on the occasion of the Dutch State Visit to New Zealand

Wellington, New Zealand.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

Your Excellency, you became Governor-General of this beautiful country only two months ago. I’m sure there are many demands on your schedule at the moment, so my wife and I are especially grateful that you made time, so soon after taking office, to offer us your hospitality.

Thank you for your kind words of welcome. They underline that friendship can span continents and can unite people on opposite sides of the globe.

We are united by more than friendship. Tens of thousands of your compatriots and mine share family ties as well. After the Second World War more than 40,000 Dutch people emigrated to New Zealand, many of them driven by a lack of housing and prospects at home.

After the British, the Dutch formed the largest group of immigrants. And here they found something they didn’t have back home: endless space to build new lives.

Space can offer a sense of freedom, but it can also be daunting. You can’t fall back on the safe habits and patterns of the past; you have to make a new life yourself. Most of the Dutch men and women who came here succeeded in doing that. With full conviction they became true Kiwis, helping to build modern-day Aotearoa.

I know kiwis come in lovely shades of brown and grey. But if you look carefully, you might see an orange feather here and there.

The first Europeans to lay eyes on this country were Abel Tasman and his crew, in December 1642. We all know about the tragic consequences of their first contact with the people of the South Island.

The Dutch trumpet was interpreted not as a salute, but a sign of hostility. Sadly, it was not a peaceful meeting.

Even so, Tasman himself was deeply impressed by what he saw here. His ship’s journal says: “This appears to be a most beautiful country”.

Five years ago, the Njord student rowing club in Leiden was loaned a ceremonial waka named Tahi Mana, after Abel Tasman. It was both a wonderful gesture on the part of the Māori people and a great honour for the Netherlands. Never before had the Māori built a waka for non-Māoris. Never before had outsiders been initiated into age-old waka rituals.

The Māori turned a group of Dutch students into dedicated, spiritual waka paddlers. That’s quite a feat, I can assure you! We look forward to meeting tomorrow with members of the Ngāi Tahu Iwi.

Your Excellency, our countries happen to be close alphabetically. Thanks to this happy coincidence, our representatives sit side by side in many international fora, and this mirrors our closeness in many other areas. For the last two years New Zealand has held a seat on the UN Security Council and worked tirelessly for peace, justice and development. When we take our seat in 2018, we will follow your example, doing all we can to help build a world where right is might, and not the other way around. In recent years the need for such efforts has only grown.

Our campaign for a seat on the Council benefited from New Zealand’s expert advice and support. We are extremely grateful for your help.

My wife and I look forward to the next two days. We will be visiting several places we last saw in 2006. A lot can change in ten years.

We are interested to learn, for example, how the brave people of Christchurch have fared in rebuilding their city after the devastating earthquake of 2011. 

We also look forward to seeing Auckland again. There, our focus will be on the economic ties between our countries.

In parallel with this state visit a trade mission of 60 Dutch companies has come to New Zealand to expand their contacts here. A clear illustration of the level of Dutch interest in your country. Traditionally, our closest ties have been in the horticultural and agricultural sectors. But these days we’re also joining forces in areas like water management, sport, life sciences and health.

Your Excellency, once again New Zealand has welcomed us with open arms. And again we have a chance to get to know your country better and strengthen the ties between us. Let me close by thanking you and Sir David for your warm welcome and your friendship.