Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Realising Interdependency

As the construction of the rebuild hits the halfway mark in Christchurch we are starting to become much more definite about how our city is going to look and function in the future. There is no doubt at all that on both counts it is going to do extremely well. However, we must be aware of the importance of recognising the interdependency between the regeneration of our city and the continuous economic development of our region.

The New Zealand economy is performing relatively well; low inflation, generally good and increasing export activity and reasonable domestic economic growth mean that New Zealand is well placed now and into the future. As a microcosm of the New Zealand economy, Christchurch and Canterbury are also extremely well placed. When we look at the wider region, our eyes immediately turn to farming and tourism.

From a farming perspective increasingly sophisticated land use and a much more sensible water use regime are both vital to our future. How we apply technology on farms to ensure that we operate our farming systems with integrity and sustainability is going to be vital in our future. The city has a major role to play in providing the means to do that. Water and how it is stored, allocated, used and reused is going to be the other critical factor from a land use perspective. We have not been good guardians of our water to date and in a context of the sensible harvesting and farming of water we need to ameliorate some of the environmental damage that we have already incurred, including low land river flow regimes and Lake Ellesmere. The clever use of technology, much of which is developed in our city will be critical to address true sustainability into the future.

From a tourism perspective we are on the cusp of a massive increase in middle class, free independent travellers coming from off-shore, particularly Chinese and other Asian markets. They are discovering day by day the beauty of the South Island. Our airport has a vital role to play in providing wide-bodied aircraft capability to bring passenger traffic in and out of our city from overseas destinations. Wide-bodied aircraft also enable us to handle the increasing freight demands for perishable freight going directly from areas within the South Island, particularly to Asian markets. Much work still needs to be done on tourist accommodation within and on the outskirts of the city. We also need to ensure our roading infrastructure is right and that we are capable of handling increasing numbers of free independent travellers.

The issue from a tourism perspective is not the uniqueness and beauty of our offering, that is a given! The big issue is how we manage in a very supportive and enriching way the increased numbers of tourists who are coming here to spend their money in this beautiful part of New Zealand. 

Canterbury has a golden opportunity; we need to make the most of it. It is up to all of us to be prepared.

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