Kiwis aren’t usually fond of pomp and ceremony, but the 52nd State Opening of Parliament was a rare opportunity for some glamour, New Zealand style. Sam Sachdeva was on hand to capture some of the key moments from the event
From the crisp whites of the Navy uniforms to the vivid reds of the judicial robes, the ceremonial opening of Parliament provided some welcome bursts of colour against the grey backdrop of the parliamentary buildings.
Mother Nature briefly threatened to derail the ceremony, in the form of an overnight burst of rain.
Yet the clouds cleared on Wednesday morning, providing a blue sky as Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy and an array of other dignitaries arrived on the forecourt of Parliament.
Members of the Royal New Zealand Navy, New Zealand Army, and Royal New Zealand Air Force marched into place to provide a Royal Guard of Honour for Reddy, as the Air Force band struck up a tune.
Reddy was first greeted by a traditional Māori rākau tapu, a ceremonial challenge to ensure that the visiting party presented no threat to the hosts.
Challenge complete, members of the Ngāti Pōneke kapa haka group provided a welcoming powhiri for Reddy and her group.
Ngāti Pōneke is the oldest kapa haka group in New Zealand, marking its 80th anniversary later this month.
After the Air Force band played the national anthem, Reddy inspected the guard of honour, pausing to chat to individual guards and have a brief chat.
Then it was off to the main event – the Speech from the Throne, delivered by Reddy in the Legislative Council Chamber.
The speech, an address written by the Prime Minister, outlines the Government’s priorities for the coming term.
MPs packed into the chamber, ceremonially roped in before the doors were locked and Reddy began the address.
Ardern watched on as Reddy delivered her address, saying New Zealand was a great country “but it could be even greater” with a strong focus on housing, the environment, and reducing inequality.
The new Prime Minister appeared nervous at points – although she offered a smile to those watching on above her during the speech.
The ceremony saw Ardern, Reddy and Supreme Court Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias all in the same room.
It was a reminder that New Zealand now has three women in the country’s top jobs – only the second time it has happened (the first was under the last Labour government, when Helen Clark was Prime Minister, Dame Silvia Cartwright Governor-General, and Elias the Chief Justice).
The theme continues within the 52nd Parliament, which contains 46 women – 38.3 percent of the overall total, and the highest number in New Zealand history.
With the speech complete, it was time for Reddy and the other dignitaries to depart Parliament and head back to their normal duties, with three years (presumably) until they will be called upon again.
However, for MPs the work at Parliament is just beginning: the Government has a mountain of work to get through in its 100-day plan, and the Opposition has already signalled through its manoeuvrings that it isn’t prepared to sit back and make life easy for the new executive.
It was tempting to see the fun-house reflection from an Air Force tuba as a possible sign of things to come: with Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens banded together against a motivated and scorned National, there may be more colour yet to come.