MIL-OSI New Zealand: Royal A&P Society Centennial Conference

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Source: New Zealand Governor General

E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga iwi o te motu e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi nui ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa.

I’d like to specifically acknowledge Rachel Walker, President of the Royal Agricultural and Pastoral Society, and all attendees here this morning, representing the Society’s member organisations from around the country. I’m delighted to be able to join you for the Royal A&P Society’s Centennial Conference here in beautiful Christchurch.

As Governor-General, and Patron of the Royal A&P Society, I welcome this opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements and aspirations of this wonderful organisation, and all the member organisations across Aotearoa who comprise it.

I was disappointed not to be able to join you for this year’s Royal Show in Levin, which sounded like a great success – with record gate takings, exhibitors travelling from right across New Zealand, and, I gather, a significant increase in stock numbers.

I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate the Horowhenua AP&I Society on delivering such a successful show – especially following the immensely difficult and uncertain past few years for A&P societies around the country through the Covid-19 pandemic.

A&P shows have long been an important part of New Zealand’s cultural and social fabric. It was just two years after the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi/the Treaty of Waitangi that New Zealand’s first agricultural show was held in the Bay of Islands.

It didn’t take like long for such shows to become a regular fixture in communities across New Zealand. I was charmed to read of the first Hawke’s Bay A&P Show, held in October 1863 in Alfred Dawes’ paddock in Havelock North – attracting 23 cattle, 22 horses, 18 sheep, six pigs, three dogs, and a pen of poultry.

Over the years, A&P shows continued to grow in stature, scale, and prominence throughout country. Many New Zealanders will have fond memories of their early experiences at local A&P shows: whether it be stroking the magnificent fleece of a ribbon-winning merino, decorating a sand plate, or watching the displays of skill and speed in the equestrian arena.

As you put it so well in your vision statement, for 100 years, the Royal A&P Society has been playing a vital role in connecting New Zealand’s rural and urban communities.

When my husband Dr Davies and I were last in the UK, we spent time with Richard’s cousin, who works as a farmer in Wales. I was proud to hear him speak so admiringly about pioneering trends in New Zealand farming, particularly relating to diversification and regenerative practices.

However, as I’m sure all here in attendance are aware, the agricultural sector faces many serious threats. We see food security around the world threatened by global conflicts. We grapple with the impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss, and the spread of new pest species.

The extreme weather events here in New Zealand over the past few years were a shocking indicator of the acuteness of such threats. While great challenges lie ahead, our scientists and farmers continue to identify opportunities to adapt land use to better suit local environments and protect our planet for future generations.

The whakataukī says: ‘He manako te koura i kore ai. Wishing for a crayfish won’t get you a crayfish.’ Our descendants will look back at this time of great uncertainty and change, and be grateful for the efforts of those who heeded the call, who chose to be part of the solution, and acted with courage and foresight to ensure a prosperous and sustainable future for agriculture in New Zealand.

On that note, I wish to finish by acknowledging all that the Royal A&P Society does to support rural New Zealand – so much of which I know happens on a voluntary basis. I am proud to be your Patron, and I wish you all the very best for your centennial conference.

Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.

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