Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all.
I specifically acknowledge: Peter Townsend, Chair of the Champion Canterbury Business Awards and Chief Executive of the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce, and your fellow directors Leeann Watson and Hugh Lindo; Dame Margaret Bazley, Commissioner, Environment Canterbury; Your Worship Kelvin Coe, Mayor of Selwyn District; Joanna Norris, Editor of The Press; and Richard Smith, Partner from Duncan Cotterill Lawyers – tēnā koutou katoa.
Thank you for inviting me to this reception for the announcement of the 2013 Finalists for the Champion Canterbury Business Awards. I am delighted to be here this evening. This event highlights the importance of business and enterprise, and these awards are a fitting way of recognising excellence in the community.
At the outset can I say how good it is to be back in Christchurch and specifically here in the Canterbury Club. The last time a New Zealand Governor-General stepped inside these doors was on 1 September 2010, when Sir Anand Satyanand held two investiture ceremonies here. That was just three days before the first quake that changed this region forever. That we’re back in this historic building, which suffered damage both in the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, speaks of the spirit of the people of Canterbury and the on-going work to rebuild Christchurch.
When I was appointed as Governor-General almost two years ago, with the support of the staff at Government House, we embarked on a process that would be familiar to many people here – a strategic planning exercise. We looked at mission, vision, values, specific objectives, key result areas - you all know the drill!
Given we were doing our planning in late 2011 it’s not surprising that the situation in Christchurch loomed large in my thinking. From the moment I agreed to take on this role, I knew the recovery of Christchurch and Canterbury would be a key focus for my term. This is the eleventh or twelfth visit I’ve made and I’ll continue to visit to support the redevelopment of this great city. So that was the first reason I chose to be here tonight.
The second reason is also linked to our planning exercise. We quickly realised that we needed simple criteria to benchmark the initiatives we wanted to undertake, and to assess the hundreds of invitations we receive. Maybe it’s because of my military background, where acronyms are used both for brevity and to ensure you don’t forget things, we came up with: SERVE - service, enterprise, rangatahi (i.e., young people), volunteerism and excellence.
I chose to support these awards, and why I’m planning to return for the main ceremony in October, is because they underscore values that we as New Zealanders hold important. For some New Zealanders business is an unsavoury word; for most New Zealanders it’s a way of life! These awards recognise businesses and organisations that place service to their customers and the community first. For those nominated for the charity awards, that service invariably includes countless hours of voluntary service and people gifting their time, labour and skills. And most businesses too are strong financial and material supporters of worthy community causes.
These awards also recognise businesses and organisations that demonstrate enterprise and innovation. They are organisations and businesses that look for better ways of doings things or bring new products to the market. And most of all, they recognise businesses and organisations committed to excellence and being the best they can be.
The awards recognise businesses that view success as a continuing process rather than a destination to be reached. As the organisational theorist Charles Handy once said: “The companies that survive longest are the ones that work out what they uniquely can give to the world, not just growth or money, but their excellence, their respect for others, or their ability to make people happy. Some call those things a soul.”
In the context of the trauma and upheaval this city and region has gone through in the last two-and-a-half years, these awards have an added significance. To me they recognise businesses and organisations that have worked out what they can give back to Christchurch and Canterbury.
There were some who predicated, in the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes, that Christchurch’s business community would enter a downward spiral from which it would never recover. It’s a good thing no-one here was listening to the naysayers!
Long before the rebuild even began to gather steam and the focus was still on demolition, Christchurch’s businesses quickly rebounded. You found new premises and new ways of doing business, including turning to the internet to find new ways to reconnect with your customers. The result, within months of the February 2011 quake, retail sales recovered and they now exceed the national average .
In rebuilding a city after such a devastating calamity, a lot of focus naturally goes on rebuilding or replacing structures. It is easy to measure recovery in terms of buildings repaired or replaced and services restored. And while there is some value in that, I believe the real heart of the recovery lies in the community and in businesses like those represented here today rather than bricks and mortar.
Local and central government can repair roads and bridges, rebuild community facilities and create master design plans, but unless there are vibrant and innovative businesses and organisations to invest in their communities, to generate jobs and community wealth, it will be a hollow recovery.
These awards then are a fantastic symbol of the regenerative spirit of this city and the enduring character of its businesses and organisations and the people who give them life.
I want to congratulate all the finalists in the 2013 Champion Canterbury Business Awards. I congratulate you for the flair, customer service, innovation, commitment to excellence and other outstanding attributes that saw the selectors choose your businesses as finalists. Not everyone can be a winner, but I wish you all the best for the awards ceremony on 2 October. Reaching this stage, however, is a great achievement.
Most of all, however, I want to congratulate you for your passionate commitment to the people of this city and for continuing to invest in this city and region. It is the work of businesses and organisations like yours – those with soul – that underpin the true recovery of this great city. Thank you. Kia ora, kia kaha, huihui tātou katoa