The NZ Diplomatic posts have been an enormous asset to what has been a substantial delegation which has had two distinct parts.
I signed a renewal of our MOU with the Governor of Gansu. This sister-city relationship dates back just over 30 years having been signed in 1984. It was there that we felt the influence of Rewi Alley in the establishment of the relationship between Christchurch and the Canterbury region and the province of Gansu, which reminded him so much of home.
We visited the school he established, the place where he lived and the memorial where his ashes are buried.
His influence is not only the basis of the friendship between Christchurch, Canterbury and Gansu, it is at the heart of the relationship between New Zealand and China. President Xi Jinping referred to Rewi Alley and his friendship to China when visited New Zealand last year.
Not surprisingly the relationship in Gansu is based around education and cultural exchange, but there was a desire to expand that to economic cooperation and tourism. An MOU was signed between Science Alive, Christchurch's Science Centre, and the Gansu Association of Science & Technology, which is developing Science Centres throughout the Province, which is benefitting significantly from the investment that is being made in the Silk Road Economic Belt.
The visit to our second sister city, Wuhan, which was signed in 1996, saw three education co-operation agreements signed, the most significant being the MOU between Wuhan Education Bureau and Christchurch Educated.
Sichuan Provincial Education Office already has an MOU with Christchurch Educated and with the consulate now open in Chengdu, it was a worthwhile opportunity to meet with local business and government interests. We travelled to Wenchuan, which I had wanted to visit as we had felt the impact of the tragic earthquake two years before our own.
Witnessing the results of the stated commitment to rebuild in three years was as inspiring, as the memorials to the lives that were lost was moving and as their gratitude for all those who contributed to their rescue and rebuild was humbling.
Sichuan is bringing a delegation to Christchurch at the end of April, which will include a photo exhibition – they plan to leave the image of the before, after and rebuilt town with us in Christchurch.
The second part of the delegation began in Beijing and is focussed on economic co-operation, trade, investment and the interest China has in developing a research station in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. The research and science opportunities in this area of Antarctica have brought us even closer together. We need to build strong relationships with our Antarctic Programme partners to support the work there. I often say that the future of our planet is very much in the hands of the scientists who undertake this work.
We had successful meetings with the CAA in Beijing and the PRIC here in Shanghai.
We had a meeting here earlier today for Shanghai and other Eastern China Travel Agencies. This was jointly hosted by Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism and Tourism NZ.
We had dinner last night with the Shanghai People's Association of Friendship with Foreign Countries. I was pleased our host Mr Zhou mentioned that the birthplace of the Chinese Communist Party was just over the road. I stood in the very room where that historic first meeting took place and appreciated the fact that both ancient and modern history is preserved in this way in China.
Tomorrow we leave for Shenzhen where we have some significant businesses to visit and a co-operation agreement to be signed with the Shenzhen Mayor. And then we visit Guangzhou with further business discussions to support economic development in Christchurch.
I first came to Shanghai 20 years ago as a Member of Parliament – I called in on my way back home after the World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.
I returned about 12 years ago as a Minister in the NZ Government.
I then returned as a tourist because I love Shanghai.
And this is my first official visit as Mayor of Christchurch.
So let me leave you with some thoughts about Christchurch.
It is true that we are still rebuilding the city, but when I see empty spaces where buildings once stood I see opportunity.
Christchurch is helping to drive the NZ economy at the moment and we are doing all we can to remind people that it is not just the rebuild that is responsible for that. The underlying economy of the Canterbury region is very strong.
We have an economic development strategy that recognises the significance of our location facing the Canterbury plains – the source of food and water – the security of supply of which is a global issue.
We are the international gateway to the South Island, which produces the images that most potential visitors see when they think of New Zealand.
We are one of only five gateway cities to Antarctica, which will help us unlock the knowledge that will guide the world in addressing climate change.
I get very excited when I think about all the opportunities that lie ahead. And I am glad that we can come together in Shanghai and explore those opportunities with such a diverse range of industries, existing partners and potential partners.
Thank you once again for joining the delegation at this reception and thank you again to the Consul-General for her hospitality and welcome.