Tihe Mauri Ora! E te Rangatira, Rakiihia, e te Iwi Ngāi Tahu, me koutou katoa e huihui nei, tēnā koutou mo te Whakatau ki ahau, ki tēnei hui whakahirahira. Kia ora tātou katoa. To the Leader, Rakiihaia, to Ngāi Tahu, and all gathered here, thank you for the welcome to me, to this important gathering. Greetings to you all.
I want to specifically acknowledge the Directors of the Canterbury Swim School – Huia Mikara, Chris Hurley and Jenny Jones; Cr Jimmy Chen from the Christchurch City Council, representatives from the project team and builders.
Thank you for inviting me here to open the Waitaha Aquatic Centre. Opening a new facility is a special occasion because it indicates the hard work of people in preparing for the future. And both hard work and realising a vision for the future is particularly special here in Christchurch.
Before opening this Aquatic Centre, I would like to speak about its importance in the context of learning to swim.
New Zealanders love to swim. It is one of the top three recreational pursuits for New Zealanders. Some people swim for sport and competition. Some people swim to keep fit and healthy. Most of us swim because it is fun!
Having fun around water; whether that’s at a swimming pool, at a lake, or at the sea; is something all New Zealanders can do. Almost every town has a pool, and everyone is less than an hour’s drive from the sea or a lake.
New Zealand has produced some of the world’s best swimmers - athletes such as Danyon Loader and Sophie Pascoe. We have produced some of the best multisport competitors, such as Hamish Carter and Andrea Hewitt. And we have produced some of the world’s best rowers, sailors, surfers, surf-lifesavers, water skiers, divers and canoeists.
All of our water sports success has started at a pool where the basics of learning how to swim and how to best enjoy being in and around water has been instilled. Despite this, for every two or three fun days at the beach, by a lake or river or in the pool, there is a day of tragedy.
Accidents in water happen. However, being confident and competent around water reduces that risk. It is never too late to learn to swim. Learning to swim competently is good for the body, good for the mind and good for the community.
While swimming is good for us, pools in this city took a battering in the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. Some pools have been closed permanently. And that’s why I’m pleased to be here to open and celebrate the Canterbury Swim School’s new Waitaha Aquatic Centre.
With the limited number of pools on the western side of the city, it will be a great place for people of all ages to learn, enjoy and excel in, and on, the water. A place where a future New Zealand water sports hero can learn to swim.
The combination of a 25m lane pool, with five or six lane configuration, as well as a 10m by 10m learner’s pool means there is no excuse for anyone living nearby not to learn to swim. It will be a great asset to this community.
In the context of Christchurch and Canterbury, this aquatic centre carries a greater importance. This aquatic centre demonstrates “a community’s investment in its community” – people investing in people. After all the upheaval this city has suffered with the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, it is impressive to see that individuals, organisations iwi and the wider community are prepared to invest in community facilities. The directors of the Canterbury Swim School are to be congratulated for being prepared to invest in the construction of this new multi-million dollar facility.
This new aquatic centre is a testament to the determination, resilience, foresight and community -mindedness of the people of Christchurch and Canterbury. As Governor-General I want to congratulate everyone involved in bringing this new aquatic centre to fruition.