Thank you for the opportunity to say a few words and thank you to the Christchurch Philippines Assistance Group for organising this event.
And thank you for your message of unity. It is a word that motivates me in everything I do. I acknowledge the representative of the embassy – I have met your Ambassador so please take my regards to her.
We have come to offer our Philippines community here in Christchurch the support of the city council on behalf of the whole city as your home country begins its journey to recovery following a 7.2 earthquake on the 15th of October, which was then following by Typhoon Haiyan – the most powerful typhoon on record.
Having experienced our own disastrous earthquake, our hearts go out to anyone in the world who experiences such trauma. This is something that will connect Christchurch to those places forever.
But the Philippines is not some distant country, to which we have no prior connection, the Philippines community is very much part of who we are as a city, with now over 2000 people from the Philippines calling Christchurch home.
Our health care system knows only too well how much we rely on nursing staff, who have come to Christchurch from the Philippines.
We also have temporary migrants here boosting our trades workforce for the rebuild.
When the images started to emerge in the early hours of the day after Typhoon Haiyan made landfall on Friday 8 November, the appalling nature and sheer scale of the devastation was revealed.
No one who saw those images could possibly be left untouched.
We in Christchurch understand the frantic need to know whether loved ones are alright. And our hearts went out to our friends in the Filipino community here in Christchurch.
I remember during our own experience here, that a pastor in one of the churches in New Brighton said that those of us on the ground helping our communities get through the difficult days we experienced were the privileged ones. People all around the country and the world wanted to help, but didn't know what to do. It was our honour and privilege to serve.
And now there are so many people in Christchurch who just want to do something and fundraising is what we can do and will do tonight.
As a city, we placed information on our website to help people connect with the organisations that set up appeals straight away – Red Cross, Oxfam and UNICEF.
Councillor Johanson was behind the initiative to place collection boxes from Red Cross in our city libraries, service centres and some of our sport and recreation centres.
We contacted community leaders to offer our support and we will be backing the festival in Latimer Square on the 7th of December.
Congratulations to the Christchurch Philippines Assistance Group for making this happen. We can support the Philippines by giving generously to the people of the Philippines – theirs is a long and low journey to recovery.
To our Christchurch Filipino community: you have the love and support of your city.