I am not being critical of the government when I say this. They had no choice but to step in and take over when the Council failed to step up to the mark after the September earthquake. But it cannot remain like this. It's not healthy for the city and it's not right for the rest of New Zealand. This new Council is certainly ready and willing to assume our rightful role in the city's recovery, it's the 'able' part of the trifecta that our council is working on. We are entering a time of transition and this will mean challenges for everyone. So what needs to happen? First we need to get our own act in order. There has been a complete failure to explain in plain language what the previous Council has committed to and what that means to Christchurch ratepayers. I, along with every other councillor, campaigned on a promise of transparency and accountability. I said that I would promote an "opening of the books" exercise. And that's what we are doing. We have engaged Korda Mentha to provide us with the initial analysis so that we, as a new Council, can appreciate exactly what is involved. They will take a hard look at the Council's true situation and this process is as important for residential ratepayers as it is for business and the property industry. All require certainty. We have also just engaged a company to assist with our recruitment of a Chief Executive and we will be meeting with them tomorrow. We will be expecting them to engage with you and the wider community about the attributes that a Chief Executive for the city requires. We already have high expectations for our sole employee, but we are confident that there are people out there who will be willing and able to step up to the challenges we face, as we build the newest city in the world. We are at a turning point and we need as a city to offer the government a credible and realistic alternative.
You have probably seen media coverage in the past week of the first meetings of our Council's new Standing Committees, including the first meeting last Thursday of the Earthquake Recovery Committee of the Whole. That Committee is designed to match the government's Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Cabinet Committee. The first meeting was overtaken by deputations, reflecting a level of pent-up frustration in the community. Not all of the issues were Council issues, something which probably reflects that we have become the only place to go to be heard. I often refer to the Auditor-General's baseline report on the recovery, because this myriad of reporting lines and accountabilities creates an unnecessary layer of complexity on an already stressed environment. But people have no easy place to go. We need to move away from this series of silos as we transition back to our leadership role. At the same time as our new Council has been setting up a new structure and priorities, the organisation itself has been going through a process of change. I was pleased to support Acting Chief Executive Jane Parfitt when she announced a change proposal for the top-tier management structure at the Council on 21 November. The change proposal, which will be finalised at the end of this week, aims to focus the organisation on the city rebuild, strengthen relationships with key partners and the community, and ensure we have senior financial capability in place. The proposal's aim to sharpen the Council's focus on the rebuild is an important one. This Council was elected on a mandate to lead the rebuild of the city and reading the change proposal, I was pleased with the direction being considered. Our Council must seek to engage with Government, key rebuild partners and the community as it is through these partnerships that we will achieve the best results for our city's recovery. While any changes to the Council's structure is an operational matter for management to oversee, the elected Council is taking a keen interest in the process and will support any change which aims to see the organisation in a better place to face the challenges ahead. Some people say this should have waited until the new Chief Executive was in place. This couldn't wait and the elected council was not prepared to wait. The loss of accreditation as a Building Consent Authority earlier this year was symbolic of an organisation that had failed to respond to the challenges of the recovery effort and the most significant building programme any city in New Zealand has ever faced.
I am confident in the changes Doug Martin is leading at the Council and support the new processes and structures he has introduced so far.
As I have said on so many occasions, business as usual is anathema to recovery. Another priority is housing. We have established a separate housing committee and they are setting a work programme which will ensure that our Council can partner with central government, social housing agencies and the private sector to ensure that the myriad of housing needs can be met. I believe we have lost a lot of ground by failing to act sooner to address housing issues in this city, but that is not an excuse for not lifting our game. I stood with the Minister at the launch of the Land Use Recovery Plan last week, which aims to provide for housing intensification in the city. The Council has endorsed the plan, which will include changes to our operative District Plan effective immediately. The Minister was not obliged to involve anyone in the LURP once it was in draft form, but he gave us the opportunity to have our say and gained our buy-in. The Minister understood that a new Council needed to get up to speed quickly on the draft LURP and he was willing to engage with us in a positive way. We need to be able to make the plan change process move more quickly and the LURP will allow us to make immediate changes to our operative District Plan to support the need for additional housing. Going forward we need to combine local knowledge and a high level of expertise around planning including the District Plan Review to achieve the best possible result for our city. I think you can see by the range of issues facing our Council that we have our work cut out for us. At the same time we need to play a leadership role for the wider community. A big part of that is to ensure that there is timely and accurate communication. I've often recalled after the September earthquake talking to CERA's Chief Executive, Roger Sutton, when he was the head of Orion. He was providing daily updates showing the increasing percentage of households with power – 60%, 70%, 80% - a fantastic story of a truly resilient organisation that served our city incredibly well.
I said to him you are ignoring the east – the city may be 80% with power but the east is 80% without power. So he changed the message – still the good news with the 80% headline for the city, but then he would give the total number of houses still without power, their location and anticipated timeframes for restoring power. If I have learned anything from this event it is the importance of communication. People need to know they are being heard and that everyone who can influence the resolution of their situation is actively working to do just that. People don't want spin. They don't want to be told that this is unprecedented or that the issues are complex. They know that. And they don't want to know what has been done for others. They want to be told where, when, how and why it will be done for them. And we have a collective responsibility to provide these answers in a straightforward and timely fashion. The Council is stepping up its role in ensuring this happens. We need to be clear that when we talk about community engagement we are not describing a meeting with members of the community to explain decisions and answer questions. Genuine community engagement is a part of the decision-making process - a meaningful exchange where ideas flow both ways before decisions are made. The failure of community engagement in the recovery has led to a breakdown in trust, which has to be re-earned. Finally I want to mention the vision for Christchurch. 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 on Q&A the weekend before last. 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. 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.
And it is in that proposition that we find the world of opportunity that this disaster can provide. We are afterall building the newest city in the world and that is exciting.