Retirement of Colonel Bennett
In his farewell speech at Ngati Poneke Hall on 14 February, Col. C. M. Bennett, retiring after 37 years in the Public Service, the last seven as Assistant Secretary of the Maori and Island Affairs Department, made an interesting suggestion. It was that New Zealand should make more use of its Maori population to open up new frontiers in trade and relations with South-east Asia. People with physical and ethnic similarities had a common bond, and from his experience as High Commissioner in Malaysia, he knew of the affinity between his own race and the peoples of Malaysia and South-east Asia. In this field the Maori people had a
big potential, which should be used.
New Zealand's close and friendly relationships between Pakeha and Maori gave it a special advantage over the rest of the world. This relationship had to be worked for, and the more the two races shared in common, the easier this would be. Both peoples must work to ensure that the present amity and respect between them remained as close as it was. To ensure equality in social and economic fields, the Maori people must be given opportunities, and one way of improving their status was to give them bigger responsibilities.
Tributes were paid by several speakers to Mr Bennett's outstanding career in the public service and in the army, where he rose to command the 28th Maori Battalion. Among them was Chief of General Staff, Lieut General Sir Leonard Thornton, who spoke of the admiration of Mr Bennett's many Army friends for the way in which he withstood with fortitude the grievous wounds he had suffered in battle.
Mr Bennett had made history by becoming the first Maori to hold a top diplomatic post overseas, and as Mr J. M. McEwen, Secretary for Maori and Island Affairs remarked, was again making history by being the first New Zealander of more than half Maori ancestry to stand for a European parliamentary seat. Mr Bennett will contest the Rotorua seat for the Labour Party in the next general election.