I had a wonderful day today visiting the NZ Parliament. I started with a public tour of the Parliament building. The NZ Parliament is unusual in two respects. First, NZ is one of only three countries in the world without a full written constitution. (The other two are the UK and Israel). Secondly, NZ has only one chamber in its Parliament, having removed the ‘upper chamber’ a few decades ago.
After the public tour I met the Cabinet Secretary, Michael, who gave me and his own church vicar here, a private tour of the parts of the building not seen by the public. What a privilege.
Photos are not allowed in the building, but here are a couple of external shots.
As well as being Cabinet Secretary Michael is Secretary to the Governor General. Only in a ‘Westminster’ based system could one person hold two roles which could from time to time conflict. One of his previous GGs was Sir Jerry Mateparae, who is now High Commissioner in London and comes to SLJ every February for Waitangi Day. So I find myself bearing greeting back to London. I shall not be able to go to the NZSocUK summer do at NZ House on Haymarket, but perhaps the President can pass on the greetings for me!
While we were in the Cabinet Room Michael showed us a cupboard in which they keep the spare insignia for the honours system. It would be sensible not to list what I saw, but it all reminded me of my own bling cupboard (the safe at SLJ) where I keep all my badges of office and have to choose which to wear on each occasion.
Over lunch we chatted about the church which Michael and his vicar, Scotty, are involved in. It is what we would call in the UK a Fresh Expression, trying to work in new ways and focussing particularly on young adults.
I ran past Michael my story about Waitangi Day. I don’t think I have covered this in the blog so far. It goes like this…
The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. The Treaty House (see an earlier blog) was given to the nation much later, and in December 1932 and January 1933 it was decided that Waitangi Day (6th February) should be celebrated in a more open way. Alongside this a full renovation of the Treaty House was begun. The first main celebrations in NZ were on 6th February 1934, when the House renovation was celebrated and there have been events and services on that date each year since.
However, in London, my then predecessor as Vicar of SLJ had been a missionary in NZ, and he arranged a service for 6th February 1933. He approached Girdlers to host refreshments afterwards, and the rest is history (including the Girdlers scholarship programme arising from the NZ link through SLJ). So my story is that SLJ was the first place in the world to hold a Waitangi Day service. I have peddled this line to the guide at Waitangi, to the congregation at Auckland and Wellington Cathedrals and to the Cabinet Secretary. No one has yet denied it, so I shall return to London with our NZ claim to fame intact!
With one proviso. This is my last day in NZ and one thing has become clear. When it comes to the socio political scene here nothing is ever quite as cut and dried as it might seem at first. There is more to that reflection, but a public blog may not be the best place to recite my thoughts…
Tomorrow I leave for Australia, having thoroughly enjoyed New Zealand. The flight is quite bonkers: 0605 from Wellington airport. I think it is timed so that people can do a 9am meeting in Melbourne. But I don’t want to do that! I just want to get there and meet friends. So, do I bother going to bed and getting up at 02.30 or shall I just struggle through and sleep when I get to Melbourne? I will tell you tomorrow.
One final thought. After yesterday’s comment about selfies, I received today a picture from one of the people with me at Old St Paul’s. I was allowed to ring their bell! Rarely rung, I gather. The guide was surprised I knew how to do it! So here is the next best thing to a selfie – a picture of me taken by someone else least it proves that I am alive (as AS would say) and that this is not an auto-generated blog.