The Hon David Cunliffe and all my former Parliamentary colleagues; The People's Choice councillors and community board members, Delegates and friends;
It is my absolute pleasure to welcome the New Zealand Labour Party to Christchurch in my new role as Mayor of Christchurch.
A very warm welcome to you all.
It really doesn't feel as if it has only been three weeks since we were elected and only just over a week since we were sworn into office.
We truly hit the ground running.
We began meeting with our strategic partners straight way and we have had one message for them all – this council is not about business as usual. We are a united team and we will infuse the council with a 'can do' attitude that means we get things done.
We know there is much to be done over the next three years. That's why we need the council as a whole to be a high performing team.
On the Tuesday after the election, we had a discussion about our values and goals. I came back to my office and someone showed me how to turn on my computer – the screen saver said "One team making it happen with integrity and passion".
As I said to the council staff when we introduced ourselves to them: a value statement means nothing if it sits on a screen and does not drive everything we do.
But the truth is that many people within the council have felt stifled by a system that has become inward-looking and risk averse.
No organisation can afford to let this happen.
"One team making it happen with integrity and passion" must become how we interact with each other, our strategic partners and, not least of all, our citizens and residents.
"One team" reflects unity – as a Council, as a city and in how we relate to others - as a partner with central government, other councils, ECan, and Ngai Tahu; "making it happen" is about our 'can do' attitude enabling communities and businesses to do what needs to be done; "integrity" is about transparency and accountability – the plain and honest truth; and "passion", coming from the Latin 'to suffer', promises the level of commitment we have each made to the city of Christchurch.
If we are one team then everyone has a voice and everyone can add value. But we know that there are people both within the council and those who interact with the council who are afraid to speak out for fear of the consequences.
This is ironic for a Council that won a prestigious international award for Share an Idea. I have the award on my office wall. It is actually for Co-creation.
The whole idea of co-creation is to unleash the creative energy of many people, such that it transforms both their individual experience and the organisation that enabled it.
How could we stifle the creative and innovative capacity of the talented people who work for us and with us, by shutting them down? What are we trying to hide?
My campaign pitch was that the Christchurch City Council has the award for cocreation, under my leadership we will earn it.
We have a council that is totally up for a new way of doing local government – participatory planning and collaborative decision-making are the descriptors – how that will look in practice will emerge from our interactions with the diverse communities that make up Christchurch – that's co-creation in action.
Every single member of the council campaigned on a commitment to transparency and accountability, along with devolving greater decision-making authority to our community boards, in order to better engage communities in local decisions.
We are going to make it happen.
We are the first council to commit to sending the Mayor or Deputy Mayor and other councillors to the inaugural meetings of all the community boards to show how important they are and to ask them to prepare for their new responsibilities.
We are going to approach the representation review from the grassroots up. We will allow communities to define themselves – from their asset base – to develop their wards as clusters of communities to form the basis for community planning and as an electoral college.
I know your conference agenda will be filled with all the issues that matter to the people of Christchurch.
I have enormous respect for my former Christchurch colleagues, and will never forget what we went through together.
People reflect on the post February earthquake period and say that it was the best of times and the worst of times. The best of times was how we came together - the silos disappeared, the barriers came down. The tragedy is that this was not maintained after things settled down.
That is what our council wants to recapture - the spirit of cooperation.
Our council is determined to engage and work collaboratively with central government, 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 asked others, on the lack of engagement that is reflected in low voter turnout. It is true that 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.
As I said we will be engaging people in decision-making in a new way - 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, lack of housing, rising house and rental prices.
And there has been insufficient attention to training for the rebuild that would give our young people – and also our older people looking for a change in career - an opportunity to learn new skills and take on the challenge of the rebuild.
We are sending this message to all parties. We will work in partnership with you. We will be a catalyst for new ideas and true innovation. Anything is possible here now.
We honestly believe that 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 – the pride of the region.
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.
Thank you for coming to Christchurch. I hope you have a highly successful conference and that you come back often. You will always be welcome. Thank you for showing your confidence in Christchurch and the Canterbury region by holding your 2013 conference here. There is no greater measure of support that can be offered our city than continuing to do business here. Please take the message home. Christchurch is open for business.
Despite the challenges we face, I am enormously optimistic for Christchurch.
After all we are building the newest city in the world.