Ian Smith, Chair of the Drug Injecting Services in Canterbury Trust, South Island Regional Manager, Maggie Treweek, Diana Stewart manager of the Rodger Wright Centre, staff, volunteers and guests.
I accepted this invitation because I spoke at the last opening. And I was at the original opening as the MP for Christchurch Central.
The principles of health promotion are the same principles that guide a community in a post disaster environment. Enabling communities to determine their own future and facilitating the partnerships critical to health and well-being, that's what this new council is all about.
I am not going to extol the virtues of this programme with its proven track record. You have already heard that this is an evidence-based, commonsense approach to helping resolve a complex issue. You don't encourage people to use drugs. You encourage people who do, to make informed choices about safety.
Three successive governments partnered to make this the success that it has become – and the political leaders that made it happen were Helen Clark as a Minister of Health and then as Prime Minister, Tim Barnett as the sponsor of a private members bill and Katherine O'Regan & Maurice Williamson both Associate Ministers of Health. And I should include Fran Wilde, as the sponsor of the decriminalisation bill that enabled gay men to be open about their relationships in the first place. Between them they ensured that a health promotion approach was adopted.
This meant enabling exposed populations to have their own voice in the decision-making and the delivery of advice and support: men who have sex with men through the AIDS Foundation, sex workers through the Prostitutes Collective and injecting drug users through centres like this. They enabled successive governments to take an evidence-based approach through anti-discrimination laws,decriminalisation of sex work and the introduction of the needle-exchange programme.
Allowing the exposed populations to own the problems and the solutions has made this a world-leading approach on many levels and we have saved hundreds of lives as a result.
But I mention the politicians because it requires courage to take a stand on issues that offend some people's sense of morality, and we need them to be able to make the right decisions for the sake of society as a whole.
I know that as an organisation you model yourself on the principles enunciated by the Ottawa Charter. It is the foundation of what you do. We should remind ourselves that if we as a city are going to recover from our earthquake disaster, we could do little better than remind ourselves of its wisdom.
Health promotion works through concrete and effective community action in setting priorities, making decisions, planning strategies and implementing them to achieve better health. At the heart of this process is the empowerment of communities - their ownership and control of their own endeavours and destinies.
Community development draws on existing human and material resources in the community to enhance self-help and social support, and to develop flexible systems for strengthening public participation in and direction of health matters. This requires full and continuous access to information, learning opportunities for health, as well as funding support.
This philosophy lies at the heart of disaster recovery and sadly it has been absent from a recovery process that has failed to understand the importance of information, communication, transparency, accountability, strategic planning, leadership and community engagement.
That is, until now. The new city council understands fully the importance of all these, and I came today to send that message to you providing such important holistic support to what might otherwise be a marginalised population and to the rest of the city.
This is a Council that will stand up for all of its residents. We are committed to the principles of the Ottawa Charter in all that we do.
And we welcome the Rodger Wright Centre and the Hepatitis C Community Clinic to its new home.