22 February, 2013
Address to the Christchurch Earthquake Memorial Service
Good afternoon. Thank you for the invitation to be here with you as we remember the destructive and terrifying earthquake that struck this city and the surrounding areas two years ago today.
It claimed the lives of 185 people and because of that, February 22nd will always be a poignant day for the people of Canterbury.
I would like to acknowledge and welcome here the family and friends of those who lost their lives.
I know this is a difficult day for you.
Your grief is still raw and only time can help to numb the pain of your loss.
This city and this country continue to feel for you.
Today is also about remembering those who were badly injured in the earthquakes.
And it’s about paying tribute to the strength and resolve of Cantabrians.
People have lost their homes and businesses.
People have faced massive disruption, uncertainty and anxiety.
And people have endured more than 11,000 earthquakes and aftershocks since September 2010.
In the face of that, you have shown great heart and resilience. You have prevailed.
Christchurch did not deserve these earthquakes.
Christchurch did not ask for them.
But having endured them, Cantabrians are seizing the chance to build the best city they can on this site.
This anniversary is the time to look at how far you have come in two years, and also to look forward down the road ahead.
Out of these broken streets, which have been likened to a war zone, a new Christchurch will emerge.
In just a few years, this will be one of the best and most liveable cities in the world.
As I look around today, I am staggered at what is changing, and the scale on which it is occurring.
Scenes that three years ago would have been simply unimaginable, are now the daily reality for those who live here.
The magnitude of the destruction means it will take some time for the region to fully rebuild and recover.
But much progress has been, and will continue to be made.
I want to take this opportunity to reiterate to the people of Canterbury today that the Government remains absolutely committed to standing beside you.
I know there is frustration about the time it is taking for houses to be fixed or rebuilt.
I know it’s hard.
I know there’s suffering, still. Everyone’s anxious to get things going faster.
But this job is unprecedented in the world and we should judge ourselves not only by how far there is to go, but by how far we’ve come.
This rebuild will be done house by house, building by building, street by street.
It will be done steadily, carefully and properly.
By the end of this year, we expect more than 50,000 house repairs will have been completed under EQC’s managed repairs programme.
The land zoning process has also been finished, with only a handful of Port Hills properties under review, and so far more than $1 billion has been paid out on residential red zone settlements.
This year will also see the rebuilding of the central city going full steam ahead as we move from demolition to construction.
In the next few weeks, we expect to have acquired all the land for the convention centre precinct – one of the key anchor projects for the rebuilding of the central business district.
By the end of the year the site will be cleared and decisions made to progress construction of the project.
Construction on another key anchor project – the Avon River Precinct – will also begin once final plans are agreed.
And earlier this week, we announced the next stages in our plan to renew and restore the education sector in greater Christchurch over the next 10 years.
This involves the Government investing $1 billion into schools in the region, including building or rebuilding 15 of them.
At the end of this process, greater Christchurch will have the most modern schooling network in the country.
There are some other major projects you can look forward to seeing progress on this year.
In April, the new Christchurch Airport terminal will be officially opened after a $237 million overhaul.
The redevelopment of the Canterbury District Health Board’s hospitals will get underway with construction starting on the first stage – the rebuild of Burwood Hospital.
Costing more than half a billion dollars, it will be the largest hospital build in the history of New Zealand’s public health system.
Beyond those, several major private investors have signalled plans to develop high-quality entertainment and hospitality complexes around the city.
They are also competing to build their visions for retail spaces in the CBD.
So much is happening.
Christchurch is a different city now than it was before the earthquakes, and it will be a different city again by the time the rebuild is finished.
It will be a testament to the thousands of people who will have worked on it, and to the billions of dollars that New Zealanders will have spent on it.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those people whose effort, skill, patience, generosity and forbearance have got us this far.
In the past two years, I would bet more tears have been shed in this city than in the rest of the country put together.
It’s been very tough but I urge you to persevere. Stay strong. We’re just about through the worst of it.
Better times are ahead as we rebuild a city that we can all be proud of.
It will be new and vibrant.
It will be young and strong.
But it will be a city that, like all of us here today, will never forget the tragedy in its past.