Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has named Cindy Kiro as the next governor-general of New Zealand, becoming the first Māori woman to take the role and declaring she will aim to inspire young wāhine from the “very top”.
Kiro will begin her term in October, taking over from Patsy Reddy. Kiro will be the fourth woman in the role.
“I really hope it is seen as a positive thing, you can reach the very top, and remember not only Māori and a woman, but pōhara, very poor, from a humble background,” she told reporters on her appointment.
“It truly is incredible standing here with this opportunity, and I hope young Māori girls, no matter where they come from in life, and all girls, take some inspiration from that.”
Currently the chief executive of the Royal Society, Kiro has previously served as NZ’s Children’s Commissioner.
“Over many decades, Dame Cindy has demonstrated her passion for the wellbeing of children and young people, as well as education and learning,” Ardern said.
Kiro said she was shocked when she was asked by Ardern to take on the role. She said she has huge gratitude for the appointment and will take on the opportunity to serve her country.
Kiro spoke about her poor upbringing and mixed heritage, born in Whangārei in 1958, as the eldest of six children
“My mother was born in a nīkau hut with a mud floor in the Far North. My father was born in the north of England in coal mining town.
“I know what it takes, hard work dedication and perseverance to actually succeed in life.
“I have used that academic success as way of progressing through life, while raising a family and trying to contribute to my community.”
She spoke of her unique mixed heritage: being of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Kahu and British descent.
“I am proudly Māori, and I’m also part British,” she said.
“So I bring with this a unique marriage, an understanding of the foundational basis of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and its place in our history.
“In a way, this notion of service has really gone to the heart of everything I;ve done. It;’s been a career of service mostly for children and young people, but mostly for those who don’t have a voice to speak for themselves.
“I’m a strong believer in the importance of knowledge, but more importantly of wisdom. Wisdom is the distilled knowledge born of the experience of ethical behaviour.”
She noted the past two years as challenging for NZ, but said that they have proved they can pull through with wisdom.
Asked about the role of the Queen in New Zealand in 2021, Kiro said: “Well, clearly I accept the queen as the head of state of the Commonwealth and I’m here to support her. This is the constitution we have, and I look forward to basically using it to serve the country.”