The celebration of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th anniversary and its International Naval Review showed very clearly the bonds our Navy has forged globally since 1941. It was good to see so many New Zealanders out in force to support our current Navy personnel and enjoy the International Naval Review events.

Our Navy has always understood the importance of protecting our maritime freedoms and helping out in times of trouble as it showed after the Kaikoura earthquake struck on November 14.

It was heartwarming to see the unstinting support of nations here to attend the Review which were quick to offer their help with our response to that massive earthquake. Vessels from the US, Australia, Canada, Japan and Singapore diverted to Kaikoura to help HMNZS Canterbury provide much needed relief and transport. As my colleague, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said, despite the changes to the planned celebrations, it was poignant to see the anniversary marked with such cooperation and camaraderie.  I know many of you have been actively offering your support to those who are bearing the brunt of the earthquake and our Government’s working hard to provide relief to individuals and businesses in the region including a $7.5 million wage subsidy package as an initial step along with a primary sector support package of at least $5 million and tax relief measures.

I’ve just returned from Antarctica where I visited Scott Base and the historic Scott and Shackleton explorer’s huts as the Minister of Arts, Culture & Heritage.

The Antarctic Heritage Trust is the world leader in cold climate conservation and in the past 14 years they’ve meticulously restored the British explorers’ huts and now they are working their magic on the Hillary Hut at Scott Base. Sir Ed and his team built the hut in the January of 1957 during their Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition. The hut was New Zealand’s first base in the Ross Sea and the origin of what has now become Scott Base. The Hillary Hut has deteriorated in the harsh conditions and was in dire need of restoration so last year the PM launched its conservation plan. “Expedition South” with three vintage Ferguson tractors travelling the length of the country with their “fiver for the driver”. It raised an impressive $784,000, but more was needed and time was tight, so while I was down on the ice, I announced the Government will contribute $180,000 to allow the Trust to finish the restoration work in time for the 60th anniversary of Sir Ed building the hut on the 20th of January next year.

There are some extraordinary challenges in preserving heritage in one of the world’s most extreme environments and the Antarctic Heritage Trust is to be commended on its outstanding achievements. After my few days on the frozen continent, including overnighting in a tent at Cape Evans, I have even more respect and admiration for the historic feats of endurance and determination of Scott, Shackleton and Hillary. If you are interested to learn more about Sir Ed’s hut please go to

Grant and I always enjoy the biennial NZ Sculpture OnShore at Fort Takapuna and we joined about 19,000 visitors to admire the creativity on display from more than 100 artists. The event continues to go from strength to strength and I applaud the dedication of the organisers and volunteers.

The colourful flock of nearly 3,000 wooden shorebirds across Windsor Reserve, many painted by children from our local schools, is well worth closer inspection. The Flock project, organised by the Pukorokoro Miranda Naturalists’ Trust, is a fun way to spread the message about threats facing our diverse migratory shorebirds and to encourage support for their protection. When the Prime Minister recently visited the Devonport Naval Museum we met the trustees and we both painted a couple of Godwits and Red Knots to add to the flock.

On Friday, December 9th I’ll be hosting my colleague, the Hon Amy Adams, for a breakfast meeting at the Takapuna Boating Club and you’d be most welcome to join us. Amy is an engaging speaker and her work is at the heart of driving reforms around the important area of family violence.  For more details, please contact Joan Finlayson on 09 489 9083.

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