Rt Hon Sir Anand Satyanand, gnzm, qso governor-General of New Zealand President’s Dinner Rotary Club of Wellington Government House Wellington
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Rt Hon Sir Anand Satyanand, GNZM, QSO
Governor-General of New Zealand
Rotary Club of Wellington
Government House Wellington
I begin by greeting everyone in the languages of the realm of New Zealand, in
English, Māori, Cook Island Māori, Niuean, Tokelauan and New Zealand Sign
Language. Greetings, Kia Ora, Kia Orana, Fakalofa Lahi Atu, Taloha Ni and as it is
the evening (Sign)
I then specifically greet you: Colleen Singleton, President of the Rotary Club of
Wellington; Graeme Blick, District Governor-Designate for Rotary District 9940;
President Elect James Austin, Distinguished Guests otherwise; Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is a great pleasure for Susan and me to welcome you to Government House for the
Rotary Club of Wellington’s President’s Dinner celebrating 90 years of existence.
This Dinner occurs at a fortuitous time in at least two ways. First, given that the
“home straight”, of time in the Governor-General role coming to an end here, has
been reached, it is a sterling opportunity to have you here whilst still wearing the
jersey. Secondly there is the opportunity to recognise the contribution of Rotary in
New Zealand for 90 years.
Government House reopened just 10 weeks ago after a major 30-month conservation
project. For those who have been here before, some aspects will seem familiar, but
you will also observe much has changed. For just one example – timber panelling
rooms, such as the Norrie State Dining Room and the Liverpool Sitting Room, have
had paint stripped to reveal rimu panelling in its former glory.
Paint, carpets and furnishings are obvious changes. What cannot be seen is the major
infrastructural work like steel framing that provides seismic strength to what was a
fragile century-old heritage building with a special ambience that has been preserved.
As a former foot soldier member of the Rotary Club of Wellington, I have enjoyed
maintaining connections with Rotary generally in this role, and to gather the
opportunity to attend and speak to many Club meetings in many parts of New
Zealand. It has been a delight to move from foot soldier member to honorary member
of the RCW following Viscount John Jellicoe, Governor-General, who became the
Club’s first honorary member in 1921.
As is known, certainly within the Club, I was on the well known escalator towards
being made your president in 2006. There has been more than one suggestion that I
had a change of heart and accepted the offer to be Governor-General in order to avoid
becoming President! However, now, given that my successor, Sir Jerry Mateparae,
knighted overnight in London, is also a member of the Club, a new line is circulating
which goes: “I wonder who the Club’s third Governor-General will be?”
More seriously, however, an abiding comparison between the Governor-General role
and that of Rotary is the concept of service, which is expressed by the phrase:
“service above self.” This year, the RCW Club, which is New Zealand’s first, marks
90 years of service.
From a meeting on 23 February 1905 in Madame Galli’s Italian Restaurant in
Dearborn Street, Chicago of four businessman invited by founder Paul Harris, the
Rotary vision came to spread around the world. Rotary is not only the world's first
service club organisation, but also one of its biggest (and if people will bear with me
sounding for a moment like Stuart Brooker and/or Russ Ballard here) with more than
1.2 million members in 33,000 clubs worldwide.
New Zealand’s entrance into the movement occurred in 1921 when a leading
Canadian Rotarian, Colonel Layton Ralston, visited New Zealand and Australia.
Several other Rotary Clubs, including those in Sydney and Auckland, also mark their
Wellington Club was established with Mr Alex Roberts as inaugural president.
At this point, it seems appropriate to note the attendance this evening of two long-
time members of the Club, Colin McLeod and John Todd, two people I am happy to
know as Rotary colleagues and as friends. Colin is the Club’s oldest member joining
in June 1975 while John has been a member since November 1965 and has thus been
a member for half of the Club’s life. Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in
thanking them for their commitment to the Rotary vision.
Looking back, the world and New Zealand was a markedly different place 90 years
ago. It was the year the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed. Whilst this established the
Irish Free State, it divided Ireland and promptly sparked civil war.
It was the year, too, in which Einstein won the Nobel Prize for Physics, and the year
when His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the longest reigning consort of a British
monarch, was born on 10 June. In the year the New Zealand Division of the Royal
Navy was established, ours was a country of just 1.27 million people, compared to the
4.29 million today.
While much has changed, Rotary has remained a constant in many societies. While
other service organisations have come and gone, it has endured because it is
underpinned by key values. Fellowship and the opportunity to enjoy the company of
other business or professional people, is important. But if that had been its sole basis,
I suspect it would have expanded little further than the state of Illinois.
What set Rotary apart was the combination of fellowship with service. Rotary has
invested in its community, giving it an ever present outward focus. It has tapped into
the human spirit of volunteering and has emphasised that professional success brings
with it a duty to serve.
Rotary is internationally well-known for its 20 year campaign against polio. That
battle has been so successful that it is now faced with the satisfying, but also slightly
unnerving task, of deciding what its next international focus might be.
The Rotary Club of Wellington has also been a leader in strengthening the
community. Soon after its establishment, the Club decided it should act as a catalyst,
helping establishing organisations to stand on their own feet.
That approach has always seen the Club looking forward to a next challenge. The
number of organisations and programmes that owe their existence to the Club is
considerable. Its first project, after Plunket founder, Sir Frederic Truby King had
spoken to the Club in 1921, was to support the local Karitane Hospital.
It was the first of many projects that, beginning locally, gained a national significance.
Other projects included the Milk-in-Schools scheme, what is now CCS New Zealand,
Meals on Wheels, the Cancer Society, the National Child Health Research Foundation
and Outward Bound.
More recently the Club joined with two other Clubs in the region to raise funds for a
school for the profoundly deaf in the Solomon Islands. As well, a project it has
supported at Victoria University, has achieved a high success rate in assisting
professional migrants to New Zealand to gain employment.
It has also joined with Rotary Clubs elsewhere to assist Christchurch people in the
aftermath of the February earthquake. Those initiatives have included hosting
Canterbury people needing a break, street appeals that have helped raise hundreds of
thousands of dollars as well as providing immediate assistance in the aftermath of the
This record of service emphasises is how the Rotary Club of Wellington has
constantly adapted to meet changing needs. For example, had it wedded itself in 1921
to ongoing support of the Karitane Hospital, worthy as that might have been, the
membership’s enthusiasm might well have diminished.
Service organisations need to adapt to remain relevant to the community. They
cannot expect new members to come to them. They need to invite them in and show
them why Rotary continues to be of relevance despite the hectic demands of modern
life. In this, individual clubs are essential in bringing forth new initiatives. As 1997-
98 International Rotary President, Glen Kinross, from Brisbane noted:
“Rotary’s greatest strength will always be the individual Rotarian. No other
organisation has such powerful human resources.”
The Rotary Club of Wellington has been blessed with such powerful human
resources. Its many successful initiatives and healthy membership are the best
birthday present any service club could desire. In particular I congratulate you,
Colleen Singleton, for your work as President this year and offer best wishes to the
Club as it celebrates its 90
birthday and lines up in its sights, in less than 4,000 days
time, a centenary celebration.
And on that note I will close in New Zealand’s first language, offering everyone
greetings and wishing everyone all good health and fortitude in your endeavours. No
reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, kia ora, kia kaha, tēnā koutou katoa.
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