May I begin with an expression of regret that I can’t be with you in person.
Although the announcement that I won’t be seeking a further term of office as our city’s Mayor has lifted some of the weight from my shoulders, there are still many issues to deal with.
This afternoon’s decision on what is going to be an awesome multi-use arena completing the suite of anchor projects that are the legacy of post-earthquake blueprint, is one of those, but it means I cannot be there.
I couldn’t think of a better way to spend time in Auckland than talking about the city I love, Ōtautahi Christchurch.
TIME recently listed our city in their list of the top 100 world’s greatest places. They said:
“In many ways, our third annual list of the World’s Greatest Places is a tribute to the people and businesses at the forefront of those industries who, amid extraordinary circumstances, found ways to adapt, build and innovate. It shines a light on ingenuity, creativity, revitalization and re-openings in destinations across the world.”
And that is exactly how our city feels to me right now. We have definitely turned the corner.
In my time as Mayor, I have invested considerable energy in developing and maintaining relationships.
In so doing, I have developed a deeper understanding of the obligation to honour the Treaty of Waitangi at a local government level. This experience alone has been both enlightening and enriching.
Ōtautahi is part of the rohe of Te Runanga o Ngāi Tahu, an iwi with a strong cultural and economic base across Te Waipounamu, committed to caring for the people and the environment.
Although we have established a good relationship with Ngāi Tahu, it is the depth and breadth of the relationships we have built with mana whenua, the six Papatipu Rūnanga across the city and Banks Peninsula, that has offered us a firm foundation for the future.
The rebuilt city centre positions Christchurch as a city for 21st century living, and we can see the stories of mana whenua now embedded in our physical landscape and buildings.
In many respects we are a new city with infrastructure and community facilities that exceed what a city our size would expect - the legacy of investment decisions made in the wake of a crisis.
The area we know as Greater Christchurch – the city together with the surrounding towns from Lincoln and Rolleston to Rangiora and Kaiapoi - is the fastest growing region outside of Auckland, and we have room to expand.
We are working together collaboratively to reposition ourselves to respond to future challenges we know we need to confront: like climate change, sustainable growth and the need to maintain affordability of housing.
Greater Christchurch 2050 is a plan for a future that has us thinking about inter-generational equity, something that lies at the heart of the Ngai Tahu whakatauki, mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei – for us and our children after us.
Although we are the international gateway and logistics hub for Canterbury and the South Island, with New Zealand’s second largest international airport and second largest export seaport, it is our role as one of only five international gateways to Antarctica that creates a unique set of opportunities for us.
Leveraging the spirit that is evoked when thinking of the heroic era of Antarctic exploration, coupled with the climate science that is vital to our future, we see enormous opportunities for our city’s place in the world.
We’re a region that supports innovation and education excellence. Six of the seven Crown Research Institutes are based in Greater Christchurch, we have four quality tertiary institutions, and we have excellent schools.
We’re breaking new ground in aerospace, trials of autonomous vehicles, including autonomous flying taxis, developments in food, fibre and agritech and health tech alongside other high-tech solutions.
We’re building on the strengths of our region to take advantages of global opportunities, something that is supported by progressive ecosystems connecting enterprise, education, and government.
And the great thing is that we’re small enough to be a real testbed: to be a place of experimentation where we can afford to take risks, while being big enough to be able to scale up for success.
In other words, we offer a place that’s ‘small enough to fail, and big enough to scale’ – the perfect environment for innovation and creativity to take seed.
It’s as if our DNA has changed through each crisis – we’re more prepared to take on the challenges each brings, because we have lived the reality, and we have become used to seeking the opportunities that crisis always offers.
Another legacy of the earthquakes is the area that was ‘red-zoned’, where thousands of homes once stood. It is now the Otakaro-Avon River Corridor, which is four times the size of Hagley Park, and which has created a pathway from the city to the sea.
The opportunities for co-governance and for restoration of the ecological values of the river are enormous, as are the regeneration opportunities that will be developed over many years.
Each and every one of these opportunities creates a world of possibility for partnerships and philanthropic giving which makes our part of the world a better place – and that’s the conversation the Foundation helps to lead, not on the Council’s behalf, but on behalf of the city and region.
Although the Christchurch City Council endorsed the setting up of the Christchurch Foundation in 2016 and have provided establishment grant funding to ensure it gets off to a good head start, it is an independent body, and has more than repaid the investment the city has made.
I could talk about each of the roles the Foundation has played since it began and the Funds it has established, but I will mention just one.
On the night of March 15 2019 I called Amy at around 10pm and asked if she could set up a fund – we named it in the morning Our People, Our City – and by close of play Saturday, this fledging organisation was the official recipient of donations flooding in from around NZ and across the world in the wake of the mosque shootings – fully endorsed by the government of NZ and the Christchurch City Council.
I was never more thankful for the decision we had made to set up the foundation. We could not have done what has been done, nor could we have developed the strength this experience gave the foundation and the legacy it has created, without it.
Whether it’s through one of the business partnerships or the Tui project, whether it’s one of the Funds – including the Kate Sheppard Fund, of which I am a patron – the Foundation empowered by the generosity of donors and business partners – is helping write the next chapter in the rich history of Ōtautahi Christchurch.
And I am grateful for all of you who are helping to write that chapter with us.