Rau rangatira 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: Your Excellency Caroline Chrétien, High Commissioner for Canada and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps; and Caroline Bilkey, Director of the Protocol Division of New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade – tēnā korua.
Thank you for accepting my invitation to attend this diplomatic reception here in Christchurch. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of Caroline Bilkey and her team in the MFAT Protocol Division for organising this Diplomatic Study Tour, and more widely in maintaining the connections between New Zealand and the accredited Missions.
The opportunities for us to meet are fleeting, and so when I was informed you were to be on a tour here, I thought it would be great to catch up. It is good to see many familiar faces. Your Excellency Virginia Benavidez, Ambassador of the Philippines, presented her credentials at my first ceremony on 15 September 2011. Your Excellency Laurent Contini presented his credentials at our last ceremony on 3 September 2013. It is also good to see a mixture of both resident and non-resident Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Charge d’Affaires here this evening.
The opportunity to join this year’s study tour, organised by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, comes at an important time for Christchurch and New Zealand. The tour is a wonderful initiative to showcase the business, educational and cultural opportunities on offer here. The message I’ve been receiving out of Christchurch and the South Island is that “we’re open for business!”
Your Excellencies, as you will have gathered from the briefings you have had today, you are visiting Christchurch at an exciting time in this city’s history. The city is on the rebound.
Since February last year I have opened seven new or refurbished facilities in this city. That, however, speaks of just the bricks and mortar side of the rebuild. What has marked the recovery of this city has been the enterprise, innovation and downright dogged determination of the people of this city, especially its business community.
There were some who predicted, in the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes, that Christchurch’s business community would enter a downward spiral from which it could not recover. I’m pleased that the business men and women and the civic leaders here did not listen to the naysayers!
The Lonely Planet has praised the energy and inventiveness of Christchurch. The opening of ReStart Mall and the reopening of New Regent St have contributed to retail sales exceeding the national average. And tonight, at the Champion Canterbury Business Awards, many of you will have the opportunity to meet the leaders of award-winning enterprises and organisations. I met many of them at a function two months ago when the finalists were announced. I remain impressed by all they have achieved over the three years past.
The rebuild of Christchurch is an enormous undertaking. It is not something we can do alone, regardless of how inventive we are. There are many opportunities for businesses, investors and skilled workers from around the world to participate. They are opportunities that are of benefit both to New Zealand and to those who choose to participate in making Christchurch vibrant once more.
In conclusion, I want to thank you all for taking up the Ministry’s invitation to join this year’s study tour. I trust that as the tour continues you learn more of what New Zealand has to offer, in Christchurch, in Queenstown and elsewhere. I finally, I trust you enjoy our hospitality this evening.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa