It has been great to see people coming back into the building to work. I won’t pretend that I haven’t enjoyed some of the features of working from home. I seemed to get a lot more done. But the truth is I’m pretty much Zoomed out. What I missed the most were those people to people interactions – not just the contact that social distancing denied us, but the sharing of ideas, joining in conversations, putting two and two together as connections were made – that’s where innovation starts.
I think innovative enterprises – and yes our public services should be those too – should be encouraging people back to their offices and encouraging people to support those businesses who are doing it hard. Let’s all who can do so, help them get back on their feet.
Now here’s a reason for everyone to come to town in July. CHCH IS LIT, a month long festival of light, runs until 29 July from 6pm until 11pm daily to help fill the gap until Botanic D’Lights Tirama returns.
More than 20 installations, from lighting up trees to full-on projections on buildings, have been created and built by Christchurch companies and artists, with locations including Victoria Square, Friendship Corner (the grass area opposite Riverside Market), Park of Remembrance (on the Avon River opposite The Terraces), Cathedral Square, City Mall and New Brighton Pier. These will all be filmed as well, so people can see them online.
It will be great to see the city come alive with light and people.
Work on the 2021-2031 Long Term Plan process was well underway when the COVID-19 crisis hit our shores, which means all the tools that will help us drill into our finances and project priorities have been developed.
Now we can road-test them on our updated draft annual plan.
I know some commentators have said there is a simple solution to the annual plan – a one-size-fits-all approach – but there isn’t.
One council project cut is another company laying off employees and subcontractors missing out. We need a balance.
And that’s what the tools are all about.
It’s not a choice between more efficient spending (with better value for money by renegotiating with contractors and suppliers), or increasing short term borrowing, (while leaving sufficient headroom in case there was to be another disaster); it’s got to be both.
And it’s also got to be about stripping out costs that don’t impact significant levels of service and deferring items of capital expenditure that can wait.
Instead of a small surplus, COVID-19 sees us end this financial year with a $33M deficit.
And with a large reduction in dividends from our companies expected next year, the challenge we face pulling down the average household rates increase we had budgeted at 4.65 percent was much tougher than we had anticipated at the beginning of the year.
But we can get there.
And we now know that we have the tools to help us reposition the Council in a post-COVID environment as a reliable and efficient organisation that enables its residents and businesses to prosper.
I remember the Commonwealth Games in 1974. I was a young teenager and the city was abuzz with excitement. I can still remember the song:
We’ve got to join together,
let our laughter fill the air
It’s time for every race and creed
to throw away their every care
Let sport unite us all as one
in the spirit of the lord above
And let us all remember
The games are for the fostering of
peace and love
Never would I have imagined 45 years later that the spirit of these words would be invoked in response to an atrocity such as we experienced on 15 March last year.
Although we will never forget the 51 people whose lives were taken, our memory of that time will always include the way we ‘joined together’.
We stood side-by-side regardless of ‘race or creed’. We were ‘united as one’, and the ‘fostering of peace and love’ was made real.
This act, which was inspired by hatred and was designed to divide us and tear us apart, instead united us with all our communities and embraced us in compassion and love.
The words of our Prime Minister and that of our local Muslim community leaders, who spoke of peace, love, compassion, unity and forgiveness, helped us through this time.
In a time of crisis, this is what the world needs to see and hear, and that’s what makes Christchurch such a special place.
This weekend we mark the ninth anniversary of the devastating 22 February 2011 earthquake that claimed 185 lives and impacted on thousands more, changing our city forever.
It will be a time for us to pause and reflect on the tragedy, to remember the people and places that we lost, and all the challenges so many have had to confront for years. It will also be a time for us to reflect on how far we have come.
We can always be proud of our achievements, both large and small. And we can think of the myriad of ways we have come together to support each other and to create opportunity out of adversity.
We can see a modern, vibrant central city full of people friendly spaces that makes a feature of the Ōtākaro Avon River.
We have replaced many community facilities throughout the city with modern, multi-purpose facilities that bring people together.
We have restored many of our heritage buildings, rebuilt damaged infrastructure and created new world-class facilities like our Tūranga library and the soon-to-be opened Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre. The city is going from strength to strength, with the new developments creating a real sense of vibrancy.
As a city we will never forget the tragic events of 22 February 2011 – or the people we lost – however we can look forward with confidence to the future, knowing that no matter what, we can always rely on each other to come together in times of need and make the most of everything we each have to offer.