This is the second event I have spoken at as the Mayor-elect of Christchurch.
Yesterday I thanked a school from Yokohama that continued to bring its students to Christchurch even through the earthquakes, enabling them to celebrate their 20 years of partnership with Christchurch this year.
Hosting conventions will play a big part in our recovery and our rejuvenation.
As I have said to a number of people already, our council has not yet been sworn in, but the positivity our election has generated has been palpable.
There is a sense of mission and purpose that felt lacking before.
We have already started meeting with our strategic partners and we have one message for them all – this is not business as usual. We are a united team and we want to infuse the council with a 'can do' attitude that means we get things done.
I really couldn't ask for a better line-up – there is such a mix of experience and talent, and the good news is that we have gelled from Day One when we got together for a coffee.
We met for several hours on Tuesday to talk about our values and our goals and when I got back to my office and someone showed me how to turn on my computer, the council's internal values statement came up on the screen, and it said it all 'one team making it happen with integrity and passion'.
And that's what our constituents have voted us in to do. I know your conference agenda will be filled with all the issues that matter to our constituents. I had the pleasure of sitting on the Cross Party Forum with Denis O'Rourke and he has brought his experience as a former respected city councillor to the fore and played a leadership role for NZ First in that regard.
Our council is determined to engage and work collaboratively with Central Government and our other strategic partners, whoever is in government.
Relationships matter to us and my door will always be open to you, as it will be to anyone that has a passion for our city.
But as a political party I ask you to reflect, as I have, on the lack of engagement that is reflected in low voter turnout. Sure the general election generates much more enthusiasm than local elections, but there has been a steady decline there too since I was first elected 23 years ago.
I think this matters a lot. Please don't accept that electronic voting has to wait a real trial. It simply must be an option at the next local elections. But in saying that I hope that you will also support any moves that can assist us in our dream to trial a new way of doing democracy, where the ballot box is not just the sole democratic act but rather the beginning of a three year engagement.
We think that we need to engage people in the decision-making in a new way – we are calling it participatory democracy – where people have a real opportunity to both influence and contribute directly to their own community's and our city's future.
This is hard while people are struggling at a personal level with EQC, insurers, zoning decisions, compensation, rising house and rental prices and collectively with the lack of strategic focus on the training for the rebuild that would give our young people - and older people looking for a change in career. - an opportunity to learn new skills and take on the challenge of the rebuild.
We think our council can lead the way despite our recent history. I am personally inspired by the story of the Crusaders. People forget they came last in the very first Super 12 competition back in 1996. They rewrote their plan, they took risks, they invested in players from outside the region, as well as developing local talent, and they built up the infrastructure a professional team would need. They became a champion team and we are proud of them.
They define themselves with these words: "An understated, ruthless pursuit of excellence; leaving nothing to chance, by attention to detail, courage under fire, innovation and risk taking, all in red and black!"
That's the standard that I have set my team and that's the standard I will be asking every other leader that comes here to offer us in return.
I have had a long association with your leader, the Rt Hon Winston Peters and I know he is more than capable of delivering that for Christchurch.
Although in your case I will settle for the last phrase to be all in black and white.
Thank you for coming to Christchurch. I hope you have a highly successful Convention and that you come back often. You will always be welcome.
Despite the challenges we face, we are building the newest city in the world and it is exciting.