Representing New Zealand values and culture: Dame Patsy Reddy discusses her term as governor-general and, in particular, the international aspects of her role.

AuthorReddy, Dame Patsy

The governor-general's role has been traditionally described as the three Cs--constitutional, ceremonial and community leadership. The international role was added in large part at the beginning of this century, in Dame Silvia Cartwright's term. Of course, the constitutional function of the governorgeneral's role reflects the raison d'etre of the position. But in practice, the ceremonial and community roles are what have filled the majority of my time, by far.

The ceremonial is possibly the most visible, especially the state opening of Parliament, investiture ceremonies for famous and not so well-known New Zealanders, which typically take between five and six weeks of my time each year, with up to 40 separate ceremonies at Government House in Auckland and Wellington and one or two South Island venues, covering the New Year and Queen's Birthday Honours. Then there is the commemoration of special events like Waitangi Day, Anzac Day, national tragedies and times of national celebration.

My community leadership programme has enabled me to focus on particular areas of our way of life and includes my role as patron of over 140 charities and service organisations as well as visiting regions and meeting people the length and breadth of the country. At the beginning of my term I selected four lenses that I proposed to use to determine and prioritise the activities I would undertake in this community role. They were creativity, diversity, innovation and leadership. Though they are necessarily broad, I have found them a useful guide in determining how to allocate the time and resources of my office to the myriad of events that I am asked to attend or host.

Of more particular interest to the NZIIA is the international aspect of my role. Dame Silvia described it as 'promotion of New Zealand's identity and sovereignty as an independent nation'. Essentially, it covers the governorgeneral's role as representative of our head of state, both here on home soil and in other jurisdictions. After almost five years in the role of governor-general, I am qualified to reflect on that aspect of the role, though I must note that circumstances have conspired to keep me in Aotearoa much more than my recent predecessors.

Covid effect

The extent of travel by the governor-general is always determined by the prime minister and the government of the day and that can vary. But over the past 18 months our closed borders due to the pandemic have had a significant impact on the opportunities that I have had to fulfil the international aspects of my role and I do not see much opportunity for that to change in the near future.

As it happens, the trans-Tasman travel bubble opened up in time for my husband David and me to go to Australia for a state visit, to meet my counterpart in Canberra--and to also visit the governor of Tasmania in Hobart in early June. A planned visit to Melbourne as a part of this trip was cancelled by the recent community Covid outbreak and consequent pause in our connection with Victoria. Given the commonalities we share, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to honour the tradition whereby the governorsgeneral of our two countries visit each other once during their terms.

It was the first head of state visit that Canberra had hosted since the pandemic began and so we really felt as though we got 'royal treatment'. Unfortunately, the appointed day for our official welcome was very wet and so the ceremonies, including the royal salute, were all conducted indoors. But I was delighted that our teams working together had arranged a unique commencement to the...

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