As the first Maori to head the Defence Force, Lieutenant General Mateparae made a point of steering clear of tokenism. …
In many respects his appeal is similar to that of John Key. Like the prime minister he is a self-made man.
He joined the army on a whim as a 17-year-old and rose rapidly through the ranks, serving two years in the elite SAS, serving with United Nations monitors in Lebanon, commanding a truce monitoring group in Bougainville and jointly commanding New Zealand’s forces in East Timor, before becoming head of the army and then the Defence Force.
And the NZ Herald:
His appointment makes a refreshing change. Nobody needs to be a lawyer to act on constitutional advice and after three judges in succession, he will bring a different set of life experiences to the role.
It will be particularly encouraging for the armed forces to see one of their own elevated to head of state. It reflects perhaps a revival of public interest in the services. Their recent missions, notably in East Timor and in Afghanistan, have been cause for pride. The open celebration of Corporal Willie Apiata’s Victoria Cross has given a good impression of the SAS and General Mateparae has agreed to make public a little more information on the special force’s activities in our name. …
He will bring a young family to Government House. That should be refreshing too. He will have five years, possibly more, to make the position his own. He could ensure it is seen and heard more often when it matters, such as in Christchurch these past two weeks. We hope he will.
One of the things I like about the appointment, is the potential role model for youth. You can join the army with no qualifications at 17 and end up as the effective head of state of New Zealand.