Minister, Ladies and Gentleman,

I'm incredibly grateful to you for those few and very complimentary words. I don't deserve them, and I can't help feeling you've probably seen some other gardens that are much better than mine! But I'm very touched.

And if I may say so, I'm so glad I managed to time - but a miracle - a visit here during Conservation Week. I'm sure that such a week must make a big difference in terms of trying to convey the right sort of messages to the public, particularly about the way in which so much of nature is under threat, all around the world, as you know probably far better than I do. We are facing a continuing disaster in terms of the loss of biodiversity, so, if I may say so, it's been a huge pleasure to have a brief moment to visit this sanctuary, because it is a remarkable demonstration of what can be done, even on a relatively small scale to restore a previously lost landscape and also to have the opportunity to reintroduce species which are so threatened everywhere else.

Of course, as you were saying Minister, in New Zealand so many of the species are more vulnerable to predation than almost anywhere else. And it should be an example, by now, of the dangers of introducing a different species which then run amok and also reproduce incredibly quickly.

We have, in the UK, huge problems with alien species - grey squirrels for instance, have done untold damage. And I have been much engaged in trying to save and allow the red squirrel, the native squirrel, to expand again, the population. It isn't easy, but I think, as New Zealand has so ably demonstrated, you have to have the right sort of predator control. It is remarkable in New Zealand, I think, that you have managed to persuade people that this is the right way to do it, sometimes not so easy. 

When you think how much of New Zealand's really remarkable wildlife is under threat – from the Maui's dolphin (I understand the number's now as few as 50), to the Kakapo, which sadly, we didn't view here. And even the Kiwi - I think I should come back with night-vision goggles to see that!

All of these things, declining at such an alarming rate, so what you are doing here is obviously of huge importance.

I'm also really glad to hear that not only do you battle against the loss of fauna, but also flora, and that you have a war on weeds, which has been targeting a dozen introduced plants, and that again I think is hugely encouraging. 

So this country's innovative approach to tackling pests is recognised the world over; so much so that no lesser authority than Sir David Bellamy suggested that New Zealand is the only country in the world to have turned pest eradication into an export industry! So that's the great thing.  And not only that, but I'm told that New Zealand, on a per capita basis, I think has something like one conservationist per one thousand people. So in that case you probably represent quite a lot of people, and that again is enormously encouraging.

And finally I just want to say it was so splendid to be able to meet a Tuatara just now, that I was invited to hold. I believe that's the last remaining member of the Rhynchocephalia order, which is such an ancient creature.

So I just pray ladies and gentlemen that as a result of your efforts in so many areas of the conservation field and indeed, The Minister's work and what the Eco Sanctuary does here, I would like to think that my grandchildren will also get the chance to see some of these remarkable creatures one day when they come here when they're a little bit older.

If I may just congratulate you all, in Conservation Week, on doing so much to ensure that in the future there are a great number of these absolutely crucial species, many of which of course we rely on without our realising it. So thank you.