Address given at the Christchurch Earthquake Memorial Service
27 March 2011 at 12:00 pm
His Excellency Derek Leask, High Commissioner for New Zealand
Ki a koutou o Otau tahi Or toe tar hee
Ki a taatou o Aotearoa
Ki a koutou o Piritini
Ki nga pito o te ao
Tena taatou katoa
Your Royal Highness,
And all other friends of Christchurch and New Zealand,
As New Zealand’s High Commissioner here in London I will begin by reading a message from the Right Honourable John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand, for all those attending this Memorial Service at Westminster Abbey:
I know that the people of London and the United Kingdom—New Zealanders, Britons, and others—have felt keenly the tragedy of the earthquake that struck Christchurch on 22 February.
The vigil at Westminster Cathedral on 2 March allowed New Zealanders, and others, to come together and pray for those affected by the earthquake.
This and the many other acts of compassion and generosity since 22 February gave heart to the people of Canterbury—and New Zealand—as first we undertook the difficult and desperate search and rescue mission, and then the heart-rending recovery operation.
Now, almost five weeks later, you gather at Westminster Abbey—to mourn those tragically lost and to comfort one another in your grief.
I join you in your sadness, and I extend my deep personal sympathies and condolences to the families in the United Kingdom that lost loved ones in Christchurch. My thoughts are with you at this difficult time.
This was not just a tragedy for Christchurch, or for New Zealand.
It was an international tragedy that has impacted on the lives of many around the world, including here in Britain.
This month we have seen another massive tragedy unfold. Our thoughts, prayers and condolences are with the people of Japan as they come to grips with the utter devastation wrought by the earthquake and tsunami that struck on 11 March.
Sadly it seems that this too is a tragedy affecting people in all of our countries.
In the days since February 22, New Zealand has counted the massive physical and emotional cost of the earthquake for the people of Christchurch and on our country.
We are deeply grateful for the generosity, sympathy and support we have received since the earthquake, from all around the world.
The United Kingdom has stood with us since the tragedy, reminding us once more of the closeness, and depth, of the links between us.
The bravery of the British search and rescue team that came to Christchurch in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, and the commitment and professionalism of the experts who shared the grim yet critical task of victim identification, have earned our deep gratitude and respect.
It will take time for us to recover from the events of that dark day, but we are resilient.
Though lost lives can never be replaced, and though Christchurch will never look the same again, we will rebuild this great city.
And we will not forget those lost.
My thoughts are with you,
Rt Hon John Key
Prime Minister of New Zealand
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As High Commissioner I want to offer my own sympathy and condolences to those who have suffered from the tragedy in Christchurch and especially those whom I see here today who have lost friends and family in the aftermath of 22 February.
New Zealand shares your pain.
Ten days ago there was a moving memorial service in the open expanse of Hagley Park in Christchurch. We could not be there.
But I want to say on behalf of all New Zealand how glad, how privileged and how moved, we are to be able to express our own sorrow and to deal with our own grief here in the breathtaking spaces of Westminster Abbey.
It is humbling too just how generous has been the response of the British people and the world at large.
We have here today representatives of many of our supporters over recent weeks.
For the benefit of those around the Abbey and in St Margaret’s Church next door I should mention just some of them.
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales continues the unflagging support New Zealand has had from the Royal Family.
The Dean of Westminster and his staff have been most generous in their support.
The British Government is well represented as are the professional teams who went to New Zealand to help with search and rescue and with identification.
So too is the British Parliament.
This was an international tragedy and many of my diplomatic colleagues are here representing their own country men and women who lost their lives in Christchurch.
And the Abbey and St Margaret’s are full of people who one way or another have helped us here in Britain.
I want, in conclusion, to come back to my Prime Minister’s words.
He wanted to share his grief.
And he wanted to look forward.
Let’s join him in both those sentiments.
Tena Koutou Katoa