Without going through his extensive bio, Sir John was awarded the CBE in 1996 for his contribution to the rail industry and received a knighthood in 2012 for services to engineering and construction.
He has continued to be a major influence on infrastructure policy in the UK and in 2013 he led a review into long-term infrastructure planning - known as the 'Armitt Review'.
This was when I first met Sir John - before I was Mayor. Even then I was looking at the kinds of opportunities that would get things moving here in Christchurch. I talked to people around the world who had the knowledge and experience that seemed to be lacking in certain circles back here.
I was particularly interested to meet him as he had been the Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority. I mention this because I was particularly inspired by the Olympic story – three separate stages – the development, the delivery and the legacy. Each stage had legacy in mind.
The Games Village would become people’s homes. The Games facilities would become spectacular community assets, but not all would be required. Not much call for Polo in that neck of the woods, so that was a temporary as opposed to permanent facility. The local authorities, and there were four involved, were engaged throughout the process from start to finish.
And the commitment to health & safety was paramount with no lives lost in the building of these facilities that utterly transformed this part of East London.
We are exceptionally lucky to have someone of Sir John’s calibre here.
Sir John you are here at an interesting point in our history and we will value your perspective. Sunday was the 160th anniversary since by Royal Charter we became New Zealand’s first city.
There is something about being NZ’s oldest city which is becoming New Zealand’s newest city.
And maybe in that phrase there is an ambivalence. The old and the new – the past and the future.
From the present we look back, we honour our past and all that it has meant to us. From the present we look optimistically to the future, remembering what has gone before and we are determined to make the most of the opportunity that lies ahead.
But we must learn from our past, including our recent experience – remember the phrase ‘those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it’.
My concern is that there is a fear that we will look back to blame and hold people accountable for mistakes that are inevitably made. But look back we must, in order to understand.
We learn as much as from what we got wrong, as from what we did well.
And learn we must.
There is a real sense at the moment that we have experienced a real tragedy, but what would make it worse would be to ignore the incredible opportunities we are now offered.
We are inspired by the sense of possibility that such an environment creates.
It was Edward de Bono, who said:
“If you do not design the future, someone or something else will design it for you.”
Christchurch is at a unique moment in its history right now and we have a chance to ‘design our future’.
In this, your presidential year, you are exploring the theme: “civil engineers shaping ourselves and our world”.
Christchurch is a great place to do just that. So welcome Sir John and thank you for being here.