We and the members of Kids Greening Taupo were honoured last month by a special visit to the DOC Office from a very important member of our government.
This special person was none other than Sir Jerry Mateparae, our nation's Governor General. His Excellency, a Wanganui native, has the privileged position of being Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second's representative to New Zealand.
From the very moment he stepped out of his bulletproof Rolls-Royce, all eyes were set upon him. He was greeted by a waiata from Anianiwa Drose-Tapp, a Tauhara College student. Soon after entering the door accompanied by his wife Lady Janine, several other Tauhara College students presented His Excellency with a welcome speech about what our program is all about. He followed on by giving a speech of his own.
After the speeches, Their Excellencies and their small group of companions were given a tour around the DOC garden area. The children from Taupo Primary had set up a plant potting station using disposable pots they had made themselves. Waipahihi had a station where visitors were tasked to match up "prints and poos" with the animal that left them. And finally, Bush Kindergarten (comprised of two local preschools) were set up too.
These four schools weren't the only ones in attendance. Tauhara College attended also and aided the children with their stations. Also there for the event were past Taupo Primary and Waipahihi students now attending Taupo Intermediate. The school hopes to join the program later in the year.
Sir Jerry certainly seemed to enjoy the tour, ever smiling and seemed genuinely interested in what the children had to say. One conversation with a young Taupo Primary boy named Tajshan involved their birthdays, prompting the comment by His Excellency, "I'm older than you," which was met by laughs from all.
I was honoured to have a talk with Sir Jerry after the tour. He said that his favourite thing about KGT was that "young people were outside, getting involved and doing stuff, not relying on adults to do the job for them. Kids Greening Taupo is important because it's all about teamwork and looking after the environment. We need to learn early about how to look after the planet for all of us, because if we don't, that's going to be pretty sad. It's great that you can keep New Zealand beautiful while having some fun."
We also talked about leadership and what he thinks makes a good leader.
"You have to know yourself. You have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and say, 'This is how I can improve.' It's very important to have your own set of values because it's a lot easier to lead others when you can lead yourself. Even I get nervous sometimes, but you have to lead by example. That's what leadership is."
It was inspiring how a man of such power, such authority, could still be so humble and calm. His Excellency sets an example for all of us.