It is the sign of the times that this is a virtual conference.
I would have loved to have been welcoming you to Ōtautahi Christchurch and Te Pae, our brand new convention centre.
We thought that the extraordinary effort put in by our team of five million would have seen us be in a position to welcome our Australian friends from across the Tasman. Today we couldn’t even welcome our friends from Auckland in person.
So, I acknowledge you all, and hope your themes of Hope, Care, Cure in the context of spinal cord impairment in addition to the theme “Paddling our Waka together” inspires you all.
One of the reasons why I was particularly looking forward to welcoming you here is my longstanding relationship with the Burwood Spinal Unit and Alan Bean Centre.
In my former life I was a Member of Parliament, so I am very familiar with the role that the Unit plays, and I was there for the opening of the Allan Bean Research Centre in 2001. My good friend and colleague at the time Hon Ruth Dyson did the honours at the opening. She and I held Ministerial roles in Cabinet at different times in ACC and Disability Issues.
The people that we got to know over the years through this association were extraordinary leaders like Allan Bean, Alan Clarke, Angelo Anthony and Rick Acland. They were visionary and committed to their roles, as I am sure you are as well.
I looked at Ruth’s speech when the Allan Bean centre opened:
The centre’s philosophy is based on ‘the new rehabilitation’, which sees the recovery and re-inclusion of people with spinal injury and other disabilities as an educational not a medical process, one that is customer-owned and driven. Patients are responsible for their own rehabilitation, while professionals are there to service their needs.”
I recall Alan Clarke’s unwavering belief that successful rehabilitation is hard work, involves personal learning, and is the responsibility of the recovering person. It was from this that the Spinal Trust evolved its positive philosophy: “It’s great to be alive” and a vision that one day society will forsake its preoccupation with disability and better understand human diversity, with the result that no human being is regarded as “damaged” or is patronised.
Even though the Centre had to be demolished after the earthquakes, that philosophy has lived on and can be a guiding light for us all.
Since I became Mayor, we have developed a vision for our city – Ōtautahi Christchurch is a city of opportunity for all – open to new ideas, new people, new ways of doing things – a place where anything is possible.
Being a city of opportunity for all is about being welcoming and inclusive. An accessible city is by definition a welcoming city.
As they say at Burwood, we believe in a world that values human diversity, where people concentrate on the use of their abilities, not their disabilities.
In rebuilding after the earthquakes there was an opportunity to think about accessibility in this context - as something that benefits everyone. People who are disabled by a lack of care and attention to this, can be any one of us at any time in our lives.
I don’t know that we have got this fully right, but we have the right intention, and we turn our mind to this each time we design and build our civic facilities.
So, I hope that a future Mayor can welcome you to Ōtautahi Christchurch one day, and you can experience this for yourself.
Congratulations on your theme and good luck for the days ahead.