I want to begin by saying that this is not a political speech. I have just given a political speech to the people of Brooklands so if you want the politics of the red zone offer you can read that on the website or I will send it to you – those thoughts are not for this occasion today.
Thank you for inviting me though. It is very important to me on a personal level and although I am the local MP, I make these comments as someone who chose to move to Bexley on Easter weekend in 1999 almost exactly 13 years ago and if all goes to plan I will be moving out on Queens Birthday weekend this year. I will still be in the Christchurch East electorate and the Burwood-Pegasus Ward albeit on much firmer ground in Lakewood Drive. I mention the ward to acknowledge the presence and support of our city councilors and community board members.
Sarndra contacted me a week ago to ask for some of my photographs for the display today. Unfortunately I can’t access them all so I couldn’t find all the ones I wanted, but I found some that represent the reason why I chose Bexley to live. The kingfishers, the herons, the pukekos, the stilts, the plovers – the wetlands attracted the birdlife that I love to photograph. I was sitting in a café in town yesterday downloading the files so I could get them printed and the Mayor & Mayoress stopped to say hello. I told them what I was doing and that it was quite sad and they understood immediately. They asked that their best wishes be offered to the meeting today.
I am happy to do that because despite all that has happened, it is great that people in take the time to be kind to others. And that’s what so many people have done for so many others. Kindness encompasses actions that are thoughtful, generous and considerate. I will remember acts of kindness above all else when I think about the immediate aftermath of the September 4 and February 22 earthquakes and all the aftershocks that followed.
I will think of my new understanding of the word community – it is not the co-location of houses – that’s a suburb. A community is defined by the relationships between people. And in that sense Bexley was made up of more than one community, but became as one after September 4. I thought the community meetings helped us to get to know each other and understand that sharing our challenges lessened the load for us all.
Another word is leadership. Leadership is not a position; it is a quality – a personal characteristic that is not only decisive, it is also trusted, inclusive, engaging and inspiring. And emergent community leaders had these qualities in spades – I say that because the Student Volunteer Army displayed these characteristics – but so did Lynne Ball, Sarndra Gordon, Aileen Trist, Barry Tutt and others who were at the forefront of identifying and responding to the Bexley community’s needs after the earthquakes.
Recovery is something I understand well now, having read books and articles, listened to local and international experts and visited local and overseas examples of post-disaster recovery. It is a process that requires psycho-social recovery to go hand-in-hand with our economic recovery. In that context what happens next to our land is important to us. I want to commit myself to the vision of the Avon-Otakaro River Park from the city to the estuary that is the subject of the petition that our former neighbours, Allan & Helen Campbell, with Mark Gibson from the Avon-Otakaro Network will be delivering to Parliament on Wednesday, after it has taken a symbolic journey up the Avon River on Tuesday. It will be presented to me and to Eugenie Sage from the Green Party. I think the joint presentation is an important symbol for Christchurch because it speaks of the collaboration that renewing our city requires.
As I have said I want to know that the place I chose for my home in Christchurch East more than a decade ago is gifted to Christchurch's recovery so everyone can enjoy what attracted me there in the first place. It is time to reclaim the wonderful environment that the River Avon, the wetlands and the Horseshoe Lake offer Christchurch from city to sea.
I agree with a master plan being developed for the city centre, but it needs to be the centre of a city and that must include these very damaged communities in the east. We need a vision too. That’s why I believe we need a master plan for the future development of the eastern suburbs (not just New Brighton, but the whole of the east) – highlighting the areas where residential property should not be built – and identifying how our rivers, wetlands, estuary and coastlines could become the focus of outdoor sporting and recreation activities, as well as places of learning about our natural environment – not just for locals, but for tourists, who will come to see the largest wetlands in a city. Commercial enterprises will set themselves up around the places where the people who will come, when the east becomes the destination for the rowing regattas, the marathons, the guided walks and the myriad of other activities we could develop. Sadly New Brighton has failed to capture the interest of the thousands of people who come to the pier every month, but who fail to cross the road. We need to create a reason for that to happen as part of this wider vision. We could also support suburbs becoming communities with facilities that aid the development of the all-important relationships between people.
I want to say thank you to everyone who has served on the Bexley Residents Association and to acknowledge those who have passed away. I want to make a special mention of St James School that adopted the Bexley Wetlands and helped with the replanting we did weekend after weekend. Their school projects will provide a useful resource as we re-develop the Wetlands in the future.
We have been a hidden treasure in this city and it is sad to say goodbye. But it’s not the same anymore which makes it easier to leave – and besides which I can’t afford to keep replacing my shock absorbers and now my exhaust.
I look forward to the day when we gift our hidden treasure to the city and even if not all of us are here, it is our spirit and that of those who have gone before us that will remain as part of that gift forever.