Prime Minister and Mrs. Key, Sir Don and Lady McKinnon, Ladies and gentlemen,
Tēna koutou katoa. Many Greetings to you all, if I may say so. I'm enormously grateful to the Prime Minister, and Sir Don McKinnon for your very kind words and for the very warm welcome we've received here this evening and we will ensure that The Queen knows of your kind and generous wishes to her during this marvellous Diamond Jubilee dinner. Now can you believe it, I suddenly realised that this is my eighth visit here to New Zealand and that I first came 42 years ago, which is slightly worrying and back then my sister and I seemed to travel all over New Zealand by plane, helicopter, car and also around her in the old Royal Yacht Britannia and I even seem to recall a jolly dance in a wool shed in some remoter part of the country and I suspect many in New Zealand now doubt that I was once quite young and even came here while serving in a ship in the Royal Navy back in 1974. If I may say so I've been reminded of those much younger days by people i have met and the wonderfully warm and welcoming crowds who showed me faded, tattered photographs of when I had some hair and when I could fit effortlessly into my suits, but the photographs merely emphasised the gradual stages of progressive disintegration over the past 42 years.
Now Ladies and Gentlemen coming here on this occasion has helped to demonstrate, I think, the extraordinary contribution being made by New Zealanders' ingenuity, innovation and talent in so many different fields. For instance we had a visit this morning to the Millennium sports centre, which i discovered is in fact New Zealand's secret weapon in terms of producing top class athletes. Now Prime Minister I promise I won't tell anyone else what the secrets are but it is truly remarkable if I may so how many Gold medals and silver medals and bronze medals New Zealand won in the recent Olympics in the United Kingdom. It's something I think, to be celebrated enormously. Apart from things like astonishingly ingenious boats with wheels and water jet propulsion, which I saw this afternoon, you have also that enduring sustainable product, wool, which I do my utmost to promote.
So I cannot begin to describe how delighted I am to be back in New Zealand on a visit to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of The Queen. As is now well-known, my wife is here for the very first time and is determined to make up for lost time. She is already engaged in a crash-course in all things Kiwi: from yesterday's Mihi Whakatau to an encounter earlier today with Hairy Maclary. Sadly bungee-jumping and zorbing didn't quite make it into our programme on this occasion. Instead, there will doubtless be other thrills and spills as we travel around the country this week and of course a chance to meet many more New Zealanders from all walks of life.
One group will be of particular interest, namely those who were born on 14th November, an illustrious group which includes the Governor-General, Mrs. Key and, er, myself. In fact I now discover that half the population of New Zealand seems to have been born on this particular day. I look forward very much to our joint birthday party on Wednesday along with sixty-four fellow Scorpios and to discussing our plans for world domination.
Ladies and gentlemen, this has been a remarkable year of celebration. The Diamond Jubilee, of course, marks sixty years of service by my mother, your Queen, but has also been a chance to reflect on the very meaning of service to others and, in many parts of the world, it has also given a happy excuse for communities to come together in common cause. All of you gathered here this evening will know of the importance which Her Majesty has attached to the Commonwealth throughout her reign. It is in tribute to that commitment that The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust has been established to undertake a small number of major charitable projects across the Commonwealth. Of course, Sir Don personally served that free association of nations with great distinction as Secretary-General and is now giving vital leadership to the Trust here in New Zealand. But I should also like to thank and congratulate all of you for the support which you are showing to the Trust in its important ambition of enriching the lives and opportunities of Commonwealth citizens.
By the time my wife and I leave you later this week, we shall have seen much more of this vibrant and innovative New Zealand, both in town and country. We will take with us an impression of a country confident of its own identity and proud of its diverse origins, having strong traditions, but also confident about its future. And, above all, we shall treasure this reminder of the special character of New Zealand's people; kind, compassionate and humorous and yet resilient, determined and purposeful. That national character has been most sorely tested recently in Christchurch, but in no way found lacking. I am so pleased that we shall be able to join Cantabrians on our last day and to salute their strength and dignity.
Ladies and gentlemen, my wife and I are so happy that we could join you here tonight to mark The Queen's Diamond Jubilee in such splendid style. If I may, I shall personally convey to Her Majesty the many generous sentiments expressed to me this evening. In return, I know that The Queen would want me to thank each and every one of you for all your many kindnesses and to renew to you and all the people of this great country her affectionate thoughts and warmest good wishes.
Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen.