HE Ambassador of New Zealand to Japan, Mr. Mark Sinclair
Co Chairmen of the Japan New Zealand Business Council –
Mr. Ian Kennedy and Mr Kazuhisa Shinoda
Distinguished Guests and Delegates
It is a privilege to be able to welcome you to Christchurch in my capacity as the city's Mayor.
The wreath-laying ceremony that we have just had at the CTV building site has served as a poignant reminder of the tragedy that claimed so many of the lives lost on that fateful day, 22nd February 2011. The collapse of the CTV building killed 115 people, of which 28 were from Japan. It is a heartache we share.
And then less than 3 weeks later, on the 11th March, Japan itself was rocked by the Tohoku earthquake, which caused a massive tsunami which in turn did considerable damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. A triple tragedy of unbelievable scale.
The NZ USAR team travelled to Japan straight away showing a genuine reciprocity in thought and deed.
It is fitting that Japan will host the 3rd UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, next year. The Hyogo Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction is the legacy of the Kobe earthquake of 1995 and commits to building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters. I recently welcomed a delegation from Sendai and advised them I will be attending this conference as we are committed to learning from our shared experiences and ensuring that our own lessons are shared.
Having been a Member of Parliament before becoming Mayor one year ago, I am very familiar with the role of the Japan New Zealand Business Council and how important this Conference is in terms of our mutual interests. I have previously attended this conference in Tokyo.
I was delighted when I was advised that Christchurch had been selected as the venue and host city for Japan New Zealand Business Council Conference this year.
It signals to all the fact that Christchurch is open for business with Japan and indeed the world.
Christchurch and Japan have long and well established links. Exactly one year ago I had the pleasure of meeting my first visiting mayor – Mayor Kaori Ito led a large delegation from Kurashiki in Japan . Mayor Ito and I celebrated the 40th anniversary of the sister-city link Christchurch has with Kurashiki, and pledged to take this "historic" friendship into the future.
We are very proud of the fact that this sister city relationship was the first between our two countries.
From disaster always comes opportunity. The Transitional Cathedral was designed by acclaimed Pritzker Prize winning Japanese architect, Shigeru Ban. It stands as a testament to this city's special connection with Japan, as well as representing the significance of the city's transition to a post-disaster identity.
I recommend that you visit the Solidarity Grid – a series of lamps along Park Tce by Hagley Park. Although it is not yet complete, you will see the gift from Sendai and another from the historic district of Kurashiki. The idea that all these cities are shedding light on Christchurch has great meaning for us here.
So thank you for coming to Christchurch. I am sure that many of your businesses will see opportunity in our rebuild and I want to assure you that the city is very welcoming of such interest.
I wish you well for a successful Conference.
Photos from the wreath-laying ceremony here.