Potential for huge benefits

Kia ora Ōtepoti, I hope everyone has been keeping warm in this blast of freezing weather we have been having lately.

The arrival of winter in Dunedin marks the time for some beautiful auroras and stargazing, events such as the Midwinter Carnival, as well as a few student flats having to rug up a bit more than usual.

While these are regular annual activities for Dunedin, something special comes this way in July — Dunedin is fortunate enough to be hosting six matches of the Fifa Women’s World Cup, including one of New Zealand’s matches, against Switzerland.

Co-hosting an event as big as the World Cup between ourselves and Australia has the magnitude to generate huge social and economic benefits for New Zealand, as well as leaving a lasting legacy for women’s sport in this country.

These are the events that can inspire our young wahine to get out and have a go at a sport they may not have considered trying before, looking to become the next Kiwi football star.

The last Women’s World Cup in France had a combined 1.1 billion viewers over the tournament, and this time around will be a great opportunity for us to show off the unique culture of Dunedin and our landscape.

Our Government is also supporting regionally-led programmes alongside the tournament, which aim to empower and encourage young wahine in confidence, resilience and leadership skills through local workshops and symposiums.

We invested $1.6 million into the Ōtepoti region alone to support the stadium’s needs for these events, and the training facilities for the teams playing, part of the $19 million across the motu invested in World Cup facilities here in Aotearoa.

These upgrades are critical for not only the success of the tournament but will also go a long way to supporting the local community, football clubs and the many other sporting codes that use these facilities.

Investments like this help to put us in a stronger position bidding for international events in the future.

It is great for cities such as Dunedin to have the brilliant Forsyth Barr stadium that boost our international appeal — it’s hard to complain about the weather conditions in a fully covered stadium.

Thank you in advance to all the amazing football fans who will be volunteering at the matches to ensure everyone has a wonderful time at the events — we all appreciate your hard work, your spirit and your passion for the beautiful game.

I’ll be looking to catch a few games across the country, and hope all of you can, too.

Māuri ora and go the Football Ferns!