It was great to hear Cr East speak about the history of QEII. The last time I went to an event here was just over three weeks before the February 2011 earthquake. The 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships were held here from the 21st to the 30th of January and I had the privilege of meeting athletes who went on to qualify for the London Paralympics.
I often think how lucky we were that the earthquake didn’t happen while they were here.
The last community initiated project that I came here for before the earthquakes was the installation of a commemoration plaque recognising the holding of the Games and the then Mayor, Neville Pickering, who had sought to ensure that what would be a metropolitan facility after the Games were over would be a legacy for the east.
I think it is significant to reflect on that decision – which essentially separated the main venue from the Games Village which was located at the student halls in Ilam. Despite this, the 1974 Commonwealth Games were pronounced ‘the friendly games’ by the participants, such was how welcome they felt in our city.
And that means this place reflected who we are as a city.
After the earthquakes, the Council made the decision to reinstate the metro facility within the four avenues as part of the Central City Recovery Plan. This was confirmed by the government when the Blueprint was released.
I am making this point, because it has been hard for many members of the communities on the east to come to terms with the loss of such a major city asset from the area.
But the new QEII Recreation and Sport Centre will be a true community asset, which will see the return of swimming and fitness amenities to the heart of QEII Park. It has been designed in collaboration with the community. And unlike the previous facility, which was purpose-built for the Games, this is being purpose-built to serve the local community for generations to come.
And of course the co-location of Avonside Girls and Shirley Boys, opening in 2019, will add even more life and vitality to the area.
I want to especially acknowledge the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust (the Prime Ministers Fund) which donated $6.5 million to put towards water attractions. Although the source of the very large donation has remained anonymous, I know that their motivation in giving was to support the children and young people of the east. From the bottom of my heart I again say thank you to whoever you are.
This ground-breaking ceremony for the QEII Recreation and Sport Centre marks a new beginning for the east – a real turning point.
Thank you to all who have played a part in getting to this point and for being here today.