About the Author: David Huebner serves as U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand.
Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, Foreign Minister Murray McCully, Dr. McWaine, and I welcomed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Wellington this morning at the crack of dawn. Deplaning vigorously after her long flight from Papua New Guinea, the Secretary jumped right into a busy schedule of internal and Ministerial meetings, after a private impromptu walk around town which turned commuters' heads.
Secretary Clinton and her traveling party were welcomed to Parliament with a pōwhiri and greetings from Maōri elders. The Secretary was greatly impressed with the warrior challenge, the performance of all the participants in the ceremony, and the graciousness with which she was received. She referred to the ceremony repeatedly throughout the day's subsequent meetings and events.
Prime Minister John Key, Speaker Lockwood Smith, and Foreign Minister McCully greeted Secretary Clinton on the steps of Parliament and then escorted us into the building for two lengthy rounds of subsequent discussions. The Prime Minister and Secretary concluded the meetings with a joint press conference before the always vigorous Wellington press corps. During the press event the Secretary and Foreign Minister signed a Wellington Declaration that reaffirmed our two nations' historical ties and committed us to a renewed strategic partnership across a wide range of issues and activities.
Our next stop was a meeting with Leader of the Opposition Phil Goff and his foreign affairs team.
The afternoon at Parliament culminated in an official welcome reception hosted by Foreign Minister McCully. The approximately 500 guests invited by the Ministry and our Embassy reflected the full diversity of New Zealand society including students, women entrepreneurs, LGBT community leaders, and religious leaders, as well as Members of Parliament. I was particularly pleased that our friends from Waiwhetu Marae and from the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand accepted our invitation and traveled into town for the event.
In a room full of VIPs from academic, science, entertainment, sports, government, and business circles, it would be difficult to identify particular stand-outs. The Secretary and Foreign Minister energized the room with their remarks about the strength and future of the bilateral relationship, and then worked the room to greet the guests. The Secretary thoroughly enjoyed the reception and seemed a bit hesitant to leave, but we couldn't be late for dinner -- an intimate barbeque hosted by the Prime Minister at Premier House.
At dinner we sampled a wide range of Kiwi delicacies including paua, oysters, crayfish, wild boar sausage, whitebait, and pavlova. Insights were shared. Issues were discussed. Humorous anecdotes were exchanged. The Prime Minister made it a point to clarify the origin of pavlova, lest there be any misunderstanding. The congenial conversation continued well into the evening, marking a warm end to an exciting, productive, and important first day for the Secretary in New Zealand.
Ambassador Huebner's posting also appears on the U.S. Embassy New Zealand website.