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Friday, May 13, 2011

Mayor's message for Christchurch

Mayor's message for Christchurch

Last updated 05:00 14/05/2011
Out of adversity comes an opportunity. We have a chance to remake our central city. But what should it look like? How should it function, and who will live, work and play back inside the iconic four avenues? For whom are we rebuilding our city?

We cannot any longer ignore a demographic reality for Christchurch: that we have an ageing population and over the next couple of decades as a percentage of total population we'll have fewer people in the workforce and many more in the retirement age group.

Put another way, for us to survive and thrive as a city, we need to attract and hold our young people. And we will need families to come from elsewhere to be part of rejuvenating our future.

The rebuild is not just about recreating and improving on those things we already had.

It is actually about the very survival of our city and its ability to sustain the institutions and values we have developed here in Christchurch.

There are four bottom lines or key issues that most planning sets out to address. They are social, cultural, environmental and economic.

Already in the debate across the city one can see many ideas that address aspects of these issues, but such visions need also to ultimately bring the values associated with these "bottom lines" together. And therein are the most challenging aspects of the work in front of us.

It is in the heart of the city where we, the people, collectively express the values and optimism of this place.

It is where we come together for major community events, to relax and be entertained, and where the treasure, achievements and hopes of those who came before can inspire us.

It is where we express our pride of place. It is where we stand and say, "This is who we are, this is what we do and this is what we stand for". It is also where we do business, not exclusively, but by choice.

Education and health are delivered here. It is also the place where visitors and our own descendants will measure us. It must represent the best of what we are now and what we can be.

It falls to us to lay the central framework for the future survival and prosperity of Christchurch.

The project we launched last week online, and which is continuing at the CBS Arena this weekend, is called "Share an idea". It is designed to begin to download a community vision for what our people want to see.

Clearly that is the basis for our plan. We need also to turn our minds to how we want to be seen by others.

What we collectively achieve here must also face up to our demographic realities.

We are consulting widely, not just among our own people, but reaching out to some of the best urban thinkers in the world.

I believe we are fortunate to already have behind us the major consultation and decisions that inform the Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy.

It means we have a base document already agreed upon that lays out how the central city must connect with the greater Christchurch area; suburbs, satellite towns, transport and green spaces.

Growing up in the 50s and 60s in Christchurch meant that I observed our city changing from the low-rise character of that earlier period to the more confused, less cohesive pattern of latter decades.

Better incomes and cheaper motorised personal transport meant that the dominance of the central city as the centre of public transport and commerce was seriously diluted.

Our city sprawled outwards as the higher standards of living and ease of movement meant that greater distance was no longer an issue for us.

Roads, that once brought us efficiently into the city, increasingly became highways to take us through the central area to our destination on the other side of town.

Bit by bit the central city was eroded. The suburban malls arrived and the retail heat moved to the suburbs.

Institutions such as the university and some government departments, as well as significant numbers of centrally located commercial enterprises, moved to outlying suburban centres.

Slowly the heartbeat of the city began to fade. For decades councils, residents and businesses have struggled to put a new sense of purpose back into our civic heart – and then, in a heart-beat, those hopes were dashed.

On the morning of the February 22, 50,000 workers arrived in central Christchurch, but in just a few hours the centre lay empty, save for rescuers, Civil Defence, council staff and those trapped in the rubble.

By day's end the confidence in the central city was devastated.

Now it falls to us, all of us, to ensure that we rise again and rebuild confidence in Christchurch.

Our city's future depends on us. Let us work, not apart in competition, but together in co-operation.

The council has the statutory task of bringing this together, and what a task. It will not be easy. We will need your help. We will need your goodwill as we step into our collective future.

Whatever our collective final vision, it does need to be common sense and achievable. We need an inspiring plan that will readily migrate from the planning documents to the real world. In order to recover, our city will need to attract private and institutional investment.

Most of all it will have to attract and work for many different people. For all that we have; our commerce and enterprise, education and art, science and sport, great plans and even small hopes, all of them will amount to nothing unless this is a place that people willingly inhabit.

To paraphrase an ancient truth understood by those founders arriving to establish Christchurch: "Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference". Put another way; "Kia Kaha" Christchurch!

- The Press

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