The experiences we have shared in this city since September 04, 2010, have not only seen me leave Parliament after 23 years to take up a role I had never contemplated, but also made those of us whose business is above ground to truly appreciate the importance of the out of sight, out of mind infrastructure we in modern times have learned to take for granted.
I feel as if we are offering real time laboratory conditions whenever it comes to the damage the earthquakes have done to our city.
But we cannot separate these conditions from the impact on people's lives. People are still
living in circumstances we would never otherwise tolerate and it is their situations, it is their
lives, which drives the response and the recovery planning.
Let me read the introduction to the Mayoral Taskforce Report, which we commissioned literally
2 weeks ago:
"Those of us who haven't experienced the devastation of flood waters entering your homes
would find it hard to imagine what it is like.
Over the last twelve months I have met many of you in school and church halls. I have sat
around the kitchen table in your flooded homes and heard your stories, your frustration and
your anger. I have watched, helpless, as you evacuated your homes, carrying your children to
the car in the middle of the night.
This report tells us for the first time how big the problem is across the city for our most
vulnerable homes. It tells us more of the human dimension – the impacts on children,
families, and the elderly, and how we as a Council and as a community can help.
It offers viable solutions for some, and for others there is still more work to do. Some will be
surprised that they are not represented in this report and for that I apologise in advance. In the time available it just wasn't possible to include everyone, and I am acutely aware of some of the shortcomings of the data that we are dealing with.
There are solutions and they vary. The focus of the Taskforce was on what we could do to help
until more permanent solutions are put in place."
You will be hearing from Mike Gillooly, our Land Drainage Operations Manager and Taskforce
Leader tomorrow morning. I wanted to quote him to show just how personal this is.
I have often confessed that I didn't even know what liquefaction was at the time that
earthquake struck. Lateral spread sounded like something that hit those of us experiencing
I have described the time since then as my journey of discovery.
I have learned much about what it takes for a city to respond and recover – physically,
economically, environmentally, culturally and socially. They are often shown as petals
intersecting with the community at the heart. But their inter-relationship is deeper than that.
They are inter-dependencies which say 'you can't have one without the other'.
The Local Government Act was amended just a few years ago to replace the focus on the community well-beings with the provision of the some of the infrastructure that will be
The only difference here is that everyone in Christchurch knows that you can't separate them.
There is much to be learned here. Our experiences will contribute to how we reshape our
future and become a resilient city on every level – resilient communities, resilient businesses,
resilient buildings, resilient infrastructure and resilient environment.
Our city is challenged on many levels. But with such a challenge comes an enormous opportunity.
The cause of much of the damage on the east could become our greatest asset in addressing
flood management and land drainage solutions for the city, as well as providing an incredible
natural environment from the city to the sea. The Prime Minister has announced that we will
have access to the 'residential red zone' to harness its potential for the benefit of the city as a
In many respects what we are having to address here provides an incredible window into the future of other low-lying coastal environments – something that will benefit this country but other countries as well.
Joining the 100 Resilient Cities network, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, puts Christchurch on the world stage. We will gain much from our association with the network, but we have a lot to give as well.
I hope that your conference over the next couple of days shows how much the expertise of your contributors and keynote speakers can offer to the body of knowledge and evidence that informs international best practice.
...And that because you chose Christchurch, you will know how important what you do is to
the people, who now know what it means not to be able to take their city's infrastructure for
...And also how it feels to be part of a desperate drive for urgent solutions in the face of the
weather, which we can at best predict, but never control.
You are definitely in the right place at the right time and on that note, I declare your