Dame Cindy Kiro sworn in as New Zealand's first wahine Māori Governor-General

Dame Cindy Kiro has been sworn in as New Zealand's next Governor-General at a ceremony at Parliament.

The event, which is the most significant State event since the opening of Parliament last November following the general election, sees Dame Cindy become New Zealand's first wahine Māori Governor-General.

Dame Cindy and the Prime Minister entered Parliament's legislative chamber side-by-side ahead of the ceremony. 

After waiata, a commission from Queen Elizabeth II was read out in both English and te reo Māori, appointing Dame Cindy as the Governor-General in New Zealand. 

She took the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office in English and te reo Māori, administered by the Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann. A proclamation declaring Dame Cindy as having assumed the office of Governor-General was then read out. 

Speaking at the event, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern began with a "personal reflection" on the first time she met Dame Cindy at Massey University. She said Dame Cindy's "compassion and knowledge" stood out. 

"She was passionate about what she was doing and she has remained so in every single endeavor in every act of service to all to New Zealand, which is exactly what her working life has become."

Ardern laid out her formal and informal duties, ranging from constitutional work on behalf of the Queen, signing legislation, swearing in ministers as well as visiting different parts of the country to hear the stories of local people and communities. 

"I welcome you to your new role, and wish you well. We are very lucky to have you."

Dame Cindy said she was "honoured" to be appointed to the role and felt privileged to serve New Zealand. 

"We are living through a period of immense uncertainty and anxiety, and I wish to acknowledge those in Auckland, and around the country, who continue to face the disruptions caused by COVID-19.

"I know the challenges we're facing can often feel bewildering and overwhelming – but we've shown what is possible when we choose to be guided by wisdom, courage, and a sense of care for one another.

"Our responsibility as citizens has never been more important – when our individual decisions and actions can have such an impact on the wellbeing of others.

"As Governor-General, I will focus on doing what I can to strengthen our communities in meeting these challenges of our time."

Dame Cindy said her background in academia and the public sector has led her to "prize evidence-based thinking".

"It has never been more important to critically evaluate the constant flood of information across our screens – and to value the ability of expert communicators, who can help to alleviate our uncertainties and fears.

"COVID-19 has highlighted the vital importance of research and expertise to our understanding of events as they unfold, the options available to us, and their possible consequences.

"I will seek ways to acknowledge and encourage the work of people advancing their fields of knowledge, to the benefit of Aotearoa and the wider world."

She honoured Queen Elizabeth II, saying for the last 70 years she has "remained a true pillar of service, humility and grace". 

Dame Cindy also said she was proud to bring her dual Māori and British heritage to the role. 

"To the office of Governor-General, and to our nation's ongoing dialogue on Te Tiriti o Waitangi, I am proud to bring my dual Māori and British heritage. The Treaty relationship has been tested in our struggle to build mutual respect – but we continue to make progress, and I understand what an important role the Governor-General has to play in that task.

"I've been gratified to see New Zealand's increasing desire to engage fully and honestly with our history – notably through annual commemorations to mark the New Zealand Wars.

"In my lifetime, I've also seen a remarkable shift in attitudes towards te reo Māori. It's a joy to see so many New Zealanders eager to learn the language, as it is by far the best portal to an understanding of te ao Māori – and I will continue to be its champion."

She said her agenda reflects her heritage and is underpinned by three values: Kaitiakitanga, Oranga, and Manaakitanga. 

"With these values, I believe we are better able to work together to respond to adversity; to achieve public good and a sustainable future; and to build a society where all our citizens feel valued and included and can contribute to the best of their abilities."

It comes just days after Dame Cindy had an audience with Queen Elizabeth II. Their meeting, which was held over Zoom and recorded, has been widely reported overseas due to an exclamation of surprise from the Queen when she saw Dame Cindy.

"Oh there you are! Good evening," the Queen said. 

During that meeting, the Queen invested Dame Cindy with the traditional insignia of the Governor-General. 

Born in Whangārei in 1958, Dame Cindy is the eldest of six children and is of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Kahu and British descent. She also has connections to Te Arawa in the Rotorua region.

Dame Cindy has held a number of academic and leadership roles, including as the chief executive of the Royal Society Te Apārangi and as the Children's Commissioner.

She succeeds Dame Patsy Reddy, whose five-year tenure ended in September. 

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, some of the traditional elements of the swearing-in ceremony can't take place, like a pōwhiri, military honours and formal reception. Dame Cindy's Auckland family also can't attend.