Netherlands Embassy's public events in New Zealand

Below is an overview of the events organised by the Netherlands Embasy in Wellington.

Kingsday Reception on Thursday 26 April 2018

On the 26th of April 2018, our Ambassador Rob Zaagman held a speech at the Residence to commemorate King’s Day.

In his speech, he mentioned the unique ties that the Netherlands and New Zealand share and the areas in which more future cooperation is possible.

The full text of this speech can be found below.

Image: Mark Coote

A warm welcome to all of you and thank you for coming to celebrate King’s Day, the national day of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. King’s Day is always a special day but this one has an extra-bright orange lining: it is five years ago that King Willem-Alexander assumed the crown.

New Zealand and the Netherlands may be geographically far apart but in crucial ways they are very close to each other. They have the same values and interests and share many characteristics. And anyway, in this age of digital proximity geographical distances lose much of their significance. New Zealand and the Netherlands are currently exploring possibilities to cooperate in a number of e-domains. In order to transform our economies and government services and improve sustainability, we are embracing cutting-edge innovation, disruptive technology and global connections. The world is becoming an ever smaller place.

In 2018 the Kingdom of the Netherlands is serving as an elected member of the UN Security Council. On the Council, the Netherlands is devoting particular attention to the protection of civilians, which is only too topical given the horrible chemical weapons attacks in Syria. In this context I must emphasize another of our focus points, which is that perpetrators must be held accountable. There can be no peace without justice.

A third point the Netherlands is making in the Council is that prevention is better than cure. The Security Council should recognize the causes of conflict and war and address them early on. One of those causes is climate change. Climate change is of great relevance to all nations but for some it is even more crucial and urgent. The island states in the Pacific are in the frontline and I should like to say to my colleagues and friends from the Pacific that the Netherlands will continue its commitment to your cause, which is our cause as well.

Also important is capacity building. Over the past two years twenty-two students from Small Island Developing States successfully concluded their Dutch-sponsored master’s studies in the fields of water and climate change. A further fourteen scholarships are now open for application. This successful program is based in Delft, the Netherlands.

Currently underway is the Volvo Ocean Race, the world’s toughest sailing event. The Race made a long stopover in Auckland before continuing to Brazil. Of the seven ships participating, two are Dutch: Team AkzoNobel and Team Brunel.

The overarching theme of the Volvo Ocean Race is Clean Seas, more in particular the growing threat of plastic in the oceans. The skipper of AkzoNobel spoke at a water-related event organized by my Embassy in Auckland. This seasoned professional sailor told of the deterioration he has witnessed over the past decade of sailing the Southern ocean. The Volvo Ocean Race will end in The Hague, the Netherlands. There, on 28 and 29 June, a major conference on the future of the oceans will take place. This event will bring together sailors, scientists, governments, NGO’s and the private sector in order to discuss and commit to improving the health of our oceans and using their resources in sustainable ways.

For the Dutch, the Volvo Ocean Race has another aspect as well – it connects with our past. Having left the city of sails, Team Brunel was the first to round perilous Cape Horn and finally to win the leg. Perhaps they were inspired by the knowledge that in 1615 Dutch explorers from the city of Hoorn were the very first Europeans to round the Cape, albeit in the other direction. These explorers then sailed on and were also the first to reach Tonga. Another connection to the past: Team AkzoNobel was the first to arrive in Auckland, no doubt stimulated by the fact that for the last four thousand miles they were following the same route as Abel Tasman.

375 years ago, Tasman was the first European to set eyes on the land of the long white cloud and to encounter Māori. His maps and logbook made it possible for James Cook to find this country 127 years later. Just imagine: no Tasman, no Cook.

Unfortunately, Tasman’s first contact was not a success and Māori warriors chased the Dutch ships off. Since then, however, Māori and Dutch have become friends. During the 375-year commemoration last December, a delegation from the birthplace of Tasman and descendants of the formerly hostile iwi, Ngāti Tumatakokiri, established harmony in a moving ceremony.

There was an earlier solemn occasion which underpinned the friendship between Māori  and Dutch. Seven years ago, a waka taua was built and handed over in permanent loan to the ethnological museum in Leyden, the Netherlands. It is the first and so far only case in which another culture is entrusted with the custody of a waka. In November 2017, the waka participated in the commemoration in Belgium of the terrible First World War battle of Passchendaele. Its crew was composed of both Māori and Dutch paddlers – the latter, members of the student rowing club of Leyden who are deeply dedicated to waka traditions. One of them is with us tonight.

Abel Tasman may have been the first Dutchman to come to New Zealand, but he was certainly not the last. Many Dutch people have helped shape this country in significant ways. These contributions to their new home are showcased in the Dutch section of a new community centre in Foxton, which opened in November.

It is called Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom – New Stream – and the name of the Dutch section is Oranjehof, the Orange Garden of Delight. It is the result of an excellent partnership between local Māori, Dutch kiwis and the Horowhenua District.

I encourage everyone to visit Foxton, but not tonight. Stay a little while! I thank you for your attention and should like to propose a toast to Her Majesty the Queen of New Zealand.

Ongoing activities organised by the Embassy

Apart from organising special events, the Embassy also has some ongoing activities, like a special lesson progam on Abel Tasman for primary school aged children.

On Expedition with Abel Tasman!

The Netherlands Embassy has developed an interactive lesson plan called “On Expedition with Abel Tasman” for children between 9 and 11 years old. Children go on an imaginary expedition to learn how Abel Tasman’s crew navigated, what life on the ships was like and what happens when different cultures meet. The Embassy’s lesson plan is available to all teachers and schools around New Zealand.

To receive this free teaching material, please contact us at