I hope you've had an enjoyable break over summer.  Not the long hot languid days we are used to but Grant, Joe and I made the most of it.  We swam and enjoyed the staycation, as I'm sure many of you have, in between patchy weather.  We managed to give the garden the attention it deserved and needed.  And in a change from reading cabinet papers I fuond the time to read and enjoy some fine New Zealand novels.

We had an invigorating start to Christmas day taking part in the annual Stanley Point wharf jump.  The performance of Bruce Mason’s End of the Golden Weather was delightful.  Several hundred of us enjoyed the new location on the reserve at Takapuna Beach.  And as usual the great new children's playground was full and the sound of children's laughter was a wonderful addition to an outstanding performance.

As I'm patron of Tennis Northern I thought I'd better raise my own game. Inspired by watching the men's tennis finals we bought new racquets and have enjoyed having a few hits although I don’t think we will be featuring at Stanley Street anytime soon.

The leadership change went smoothly and I know Bill English is an inclusive and wise leader. His wife Mary is a busy GP but will still be an active and very engaged 'first lady'.  I’ve invited them both to join us for events on the North Shore when their schedule allows. I’m also pleased to have an Aucklander and a woman as Deputy.  Paula Bennett is a enthusiastic and energetic former 'Westie Chick' turned "shore bird' who will always ensure that those of us fortunate enough to live north of the harbour bridge get our fair share and our issues listened to and taken seriously.

The new Predator Free 2050 board has met for the first time and has really hit the ground running to meet the challenge to protect our vulnerable native Taonga species from the jaws of rats, stoats and possums. I am confident we can achieve the vision if we all work together.

Close collaboration was something James Cook and Tahitian chief Tupaia certainly did in 1769.  I have just announced plans to commemorate their circumnavigation of New Zealand.  First Encounters 250 will mark that journey and in 2019 a commemorative flotilla including a replica of Cook's ship the Endeavour will re-enact the voyage. Those of us fortunate to be old enough will remember the sight of the tall ships which visited our harbours in 1969 for the 200th anniverary of Cook's first voyage to New Zealand. The flotilla with the Endeavour, tall ships and waka will be another inspiring sight and provide another opportunity for us to reflect on our nationhood and how we have grown and developed.

Dame Jenny Shipley will chair the organising committee and will liaise with local trusts at four key landing sites the flotilla will visit. It will certainly be a stirring site as the ships sail around New Zealand for three motnhs from October 2019. The commemorations are for all New Zealanders to own, and will lead to a greater understanding of our unique heritage in the Pacific and who we are as New Zealanders.

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