We’ve just recently marked the third anniversary of the first earthquake that changed our lives in Canterbury, and I’m proud to see so many signs of the recovery springing up around us.
I was lucky enough to be there when we opened the first stage of the first of our new central city anchor projects on a beautiful sunny day last month. Watermark, between the Antigua Boatsheds and Montreal Street, is only the beginning of the Avon River Precinct and is about showing people what the possibilities are.
We are narrowing the waterway to improve the health of the river and encourage the wildlife to come back.
Things like the boardwalk, grassed areas, lighting and seating are about attracting the people to come down to the river and enjoy the environment and I can imagine myself having some lunch there, or walking or cycling along the river with my family.
I’m also looking forward to the development of an Art Trail along the river that will showcase works from local, national and international artists.
The river precinct is just the first of many big projects we will begin to see springing up in the central city over the next year or so. These projects are about providing a better environment for the people of our city; and it is the people who are at the centre of everything we do.
I’m very aware that as we move forward in many areas, there are some people who still struggle in very difficult circumstances – whether it be disputes over their homes or businesses, or the trauma that still lingers from living through the quakes.
For homeowners in the Port Hills, there is still uncertainty over their living situations and I acknowledge that this is very frustrating for them. Unfortunately the recent Quake Outcasts court ruling has meant we needed
to hold off on the planned zoning review announcement for those homeowners.
CERA and other agencies are doing their best to help those who are doing it tough with programmes such as the Winter Make it Right campaign – which has ensured emergency housing repairs for people in need, the Residential Advisory Service to help people find their way through difficult issues, and temporary housing such as the Rangers Park village which opened this month.
With spring now here, I think there will be a renewed sense of hope and optimism in our region. It’s important to focus on the positives, and there are plenty of them.
The economy is thriving. The most recent ANZ Regional Trends Analysis shows 6.6 percent year-on-year growth in Canterbury, largely driven by greater Christchurch. That’s more than three times the national average.
It was great to be asked to launch the Christchurch Arts Festival late last month. The launch featured performances from children who attend Woolston School and Shirley Intermediate and I can admit to having tears in my eyes as I heard those young singing voices and watched their confident presentations.
We have a lot to be proud of here in greater Christchurch and these children demonstrate this so clearly.
Finally, the new Cardboard Cathedral is also now open. This is another exciting and tangible addition to Christchurch that demonstrates just how well we are doing. Congratulations to all those involved in all these steps forward.