Lianne Dalziel: Reinventing NZ's second-largest urban centre

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel. Photo: Martin Hunter
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel. Photo: Martin Hunter
Over the past decade, our city and region has faced unprecedented challenges – earthquakes, fires, floods and a terrorist attack and these events have forever impacted our social, economic, cultural, and environmental fabric.

We wouldn't be where we are today without the support we received from the rest of the country.

Now we're at a point where we're ready and able to contribute to the country in a way that is befitting our status as the second-largest urban centre in the country.

The area we know as Greater Christchurch – the city together with the surrounding towns from Rolleston to Rangiora - is the fastest growing region outside of Auckland.

We are a strong economic, logistics, service and knowledge hub for Canterbury, the South Island and New Zealand, with New Zealand's second largest international airport and second largest export seaport.

We're small enough to be a test bed – to be a place of experimentation where we can afford to take risks - while being big enough to be able to scale innovation for wider success and benefit.

In other words, we offer a place that's "small enough to fail, and big enough to build to scale" – the perfect environment for innovation and creativity to take seed.

Our DNA has effectively changed through each crisis – we're more prepared to take on the challenges each brings, because we have lived the reality, and we have become used to seeking the opportunities that crisis always offers.

We've learned the importance of trusted relationships as the strong foundation for collaboration which always provides the best way forward. Prior to the 2010/11 earthquakes, we had already worked collaboratively with our two neighbouring districts and Environment Canterbury to develop the Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy.

It was this that facilitated a rapid collective response to the earthquakes, with the fast-tracking of its implementation enabling the release of land to house over 7000 households displaced by the earthquakes.

The success of this approach is evidenced by retention and growth of our population and having the most affordable housing options of any large urban centre in New Zealand.

We have built on these partnerships by bringing Te Rūnanga O Ngāi Tahu to the table along with the Canterbury District Health Board.

The strength of these arrangements and the lessons we've learned, have positioned us to take on the challenges that other shocks may present.

We've recently embarked on a 30-year plan for our area, called Greater Christchurch 2050, to help us reposition ourselves to respond to future challenges we know we need to confront: climate change, technological advances causing disruption, the need to maintain affordability of housing and ensure wellbeing for our people.

We have our partners all around the table working together with a commitment to start implementing a plan within a year.

Our plan for the future is a deliberate move to embrace the industries that build on our strengths as a region and take up the global opportunities that exist.

We're breaking new ground in aerospace, trials of autonomous vehicles, developments in food and fibre, and making the most of our increasingly diverse economy to make sure we have a solid offering for the generations to come.

We're a hub of innovation and education excellence. Six of the seven Crown Research Institutes are based in Greater Christchurch, we have four quality tertiary institutions, and we have excellent schools.

As we look ahead, there are new challenges to face and new opportunities created. The need for us to respond and adapt to climate change, the impact of technologies on our economy and our lives, the role other global and national changes have on the competitiveness of our businesses and the attractiveness of the city and region as a place to live, study, do business and invest.

As we evolve and grow, we must constantly seek answers to the same questions: How do we build on and leverage our strengths to ensure everyone in our community enjoys the quality of life so many of us value, and how do we ensure we are well organised and ready to respond to current and future challenges so that our children and grandchildren can enjoy meaningful and fulfilling lives?

In many respects we are a new city with new infrastructure and new community facilities that exceed what a city our size would expect. That has been the legacy of investment decisions made in the wake of a crisis.

The legacy of the investment in relationships has also paid off, and we're now ready to develop broader strategic partnerships and consider what we can co-invest in, not just for the good of Greater Christchurch, but for the benefit of the country as a whole.

For those who haven't been to our patch for a while, this is an invitation to come for a visit and have a look around. There is an optimism here that matches the opportunities you will see and that bodes well for the future for us all.












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