Whenever I speak to an organisation or a group, I often go online to find what their purpose statement is. It was no surprise that the purpose of your church is to: Show Love Give Hope Inspire Faith It goes to say: Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. I have told many people that I am not the same person I was three years ago. When I reflect on what has changed me in the context of your purpose and the story that I want to share, I have been shown love, I have been given hope and I have been inspired by the faith of others. I have a necklace that my former staff gave me as I retired from my service as a Member of Parliament. It reads: "The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud". Ironically it is a quote from Coco Chanel, hardly someone I would rate as one of the world's greatest philosophers. But that being said it is true.
Often they are forgotten as we repeat statistics of how many houses have been repaired or rebuilt, how many kilometres of pipes and roads have been restored and how many insurances claims have been settled. Those who are caught in limbo must have restored the courage to think for themselves aloud and we must respect where each and every one of them is at. The three smaller beads on my necklace speak to community, leadership and resilience. These are words I thought I understood, but didn't truly appreciate until after the earthquake. A community is not the co-location of houses – that's a suburb. Leadership is not a position you hold – it's a mark of your character. And resilience is not strong in the face of adversity – that's stoicism. Resilience is about the capacity to plan and prepare for adversity, the ability to absorb the impact and recover quickly, but more important it's about the ability as a community to adapt to a new environment or even co-create a new kind or normal. And it is in that space that we see the world of opportunity that our disaster has offered us and which provides me with a vision for Christchurch. Last weekend on Q&A I was asked the same question along with Sir Mark Solomon, the leader of Te Runanga O Ngai Tahu, and the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Hon Gerry Brownlee. Sir Mark spoke first of a family friendly city – build the whanau, build the city.
He spoke of the importance of building to the natural environment and not the other way round. He reminded us how the earthquake broke down all the barriers and how the whole community came together. He felt that was the way forward and I agree. I said that in 2030 I will be 70 years old. A child starting primary school today will be 25 years old. That is who my vision is based on. I talked about participatory democracy in the context of Christchurch being a leader in political change as the home of Kate Sheppard. I talked about a place that encourages innovation and creativity as is fitting for the place where Sir Ernest Rutherford studied. I talked about our status as a Gateway to Antarctica and the knowledge about climate change that will come from there. The Minister was interesting – he asked what our new identity would be, accepting that we would always be the Garden City, the Gateway to the South Island and Antarctica. His view was that we could claim the title the Sporting Capital of NZ – we would have new facilities – and more importantly with a large amount of residential red zone land (four times the size of Hagley Park) we could have a huge recreational amenity. Our flooding issues could be solved by a large water course that could be unique in the Southern Hemisphere. I agree entirely with the Minister in terms of the amenity that the east can offer the whole city.
But is the vision for the city something anyone of us can decide absent the input of the wider community? And that is where we get to the nub of turning this into a conversation that can engage the whole community. We need to re-engage communities in their recovery. Last year there was a headline in the Press: "Community leaders advised to 'shut up and listen'". One would be forgiven for misinterpreting this. I was at the TEDxEQChCh event and heard Ernesto Sirolli's presentation that sparked the headline, and it is his story that I want to share with you . When he was 21, he started to work for an Italian organization of technical development in Africa. They had sent five young Italian volunteers to Chirundu, a small village at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe to teach local people agriculture. It was a traditional African village of hunters and gatherers. The Italians decided that these people would be better off if they became farmers. They cleared a piece of land by the Zambezi River — which in that place was a quarter mile wide. When they cleared this land with the help of the workers from the village, they discovered that this soil was very fertile.
The Italians said, what's wrong with the native people? Why don't they grow something here? Are they stupid, or what? Let's teach them agriculture. And so the first crop the Italians put in, of course, was tomatoes. They had these wonderful selected seeds from Italy, and they planted four or five acres by the river. These tomatoes grew and grew because of the soil by the river, all the water that you want, and the African sun. They grew to the size of rock melons. The Italians took pictures, and said to the Zambian workers, do you see how easy it is? The morning they were to go and harvest the tomatoes, they got the tractor, they hitched up the trailer with all the crates. And they arrived in the field, and there was nothing left. No tomatoes, no plants, no green, nothing. The soil had been churned over.
The Italians looked at the river, and in the river were 300 hippos, digesting tons of tomatoes! The Italians turned to the Zambians who said that's why we never plant anything by the river; the hippos always eat what we grow! So why didn't you tell us? Because you never asked. And that was what he meant by 'shut up and listen'. No-one can truly aid development from the outside; metaphorically speaking the hippos are everywhere and only the locals truly know the lay of the land. Ernesto's message is equally important as communities recover from disaster. The knowledge that is embedded in the community is truly extraordinary and it must be fed into the recovery planning.
Imagine if we took the three visions – a city that was family friendly, built to our natural environment, breaking down the silos that divide us, where we all worked together; firmly focused on our future, with citizens participating in decision-making giving a sense of ownership and responsibility and building strong communities. Christchurch can be a centre of science and research facing the source of food and water on the Canterbury Plains – food and water security being global issues; we are the gateway to one of the Wine Capitals of the World – Canterbury and Marlborough; we face the coastline which helps us learn about preparing for sea-level rise (over half the world's population now live in large coastal cities exposed to far more extreme weather events and sea-level rise); we are the gateway city to the Aoraki-McKenzie Dark Sky Reserve another place where we search for knowledge; we are one of only five cities in the world that is the gateway to Antarctica, which holds so much knowledge about the future. We are of course more than capable of being the sporting capital of New Zealand; some would say we are already, but what about thinking of the water table in the east and the use of an introduced watercourse as a mechanism for dealing with these issues. And what about adding the science around proteins, diet and exercise that could find solutions to obesity problems that are now endemic in cities around the world? And we have had a natural event which links us not just to the physical sciences but also to the world of risk, the measurement of which is equally interesting to governments as it is to insurers and reinsurers.
If we were able to have this conversation as a community, then we are carving out a place for us not just in New Zealand, but globally. Christchurch has just been chosen as one of the Rockefeller Foundation's 100 Resilient Cities. Not because we are a resilient city. But because of who we are, what we have experienced and what we can offer the world. I remember after the earthquake standing at an outdoor church service alongside members of the Grace Vineyard Church, who had worked in collaboration with the police, the Rangiora Earthquake Express and the wider community to set up a food distribution centre and the pastor said that so many people wanted to help, but didn't know what to do; so in serving our community we were the privileged ones. I have never forgotten that. This is an exciting moment in our history and I am privileged to be leading the city through this next part of our journey.
May you continue to Show Love, Give Hope and Inspire Faith along the way.