If there’s one thing which differentiates Christchurch from the rest of New Zealand it’s the cities link to Antarctica. Right now, we have another opportunity to demonstrate how this City is behind this important scientific outpost. Scott Base, which was established by Sir Edmund Hilary in 1957, is about to have a total rebuild.
Just after being elected as Mayor I was rung by the then CEO of Antarctic NZ, Jillian Wratt, and asked would I like to go to Antarctica. I thought “if the job’s like this, roll on this sort of experience”. When I went down, I realised just how really important for the world the science being undertaken on this frozen continent. And Christchurch was right in the middle of things.
The time has come for us all to get in behind the rebuilding of Scott Base.
The rebuild is being undertaken by Leighs Construction, a Christchurch company. It’s wonderful that a local company has won the contract. Here is the link to the proposed project: https://www.scottbaseredevelopment.govt.nz/
The importance of the links to Christchurch from a Central Government perspective is covered by this statement in the Mfat document on the New Zealand commitment to Antarctica where it states:
“Strengthen Christchurch’s position as the international gateway to the Ross Sea region, ensuring we provide high-quality services to, and collaboration with, other nations”.
This is a message to the Directors and staff of CCHL, and ChristchurchNZ, and to the Mayor and Councillors...
This is precisely the project which will demonstrate that Christchurch is back as a recently rebuilt and commercially active City. There is much at stake here. Leighs have tendered for the site to build the entire new base. The units will be welded together and shipped down to Antarctica and the new base established there.
Have a look at the graphics which are shown in this https://www.scottbaseredevelopment.govt.nz/.
This requires everybody in key positions in this City to go overboard to ensure that the Port Company (of which we all own 100%), and every agency within Local Government goes overboard to ensure that this complex is constructed in this City and built at Lyttelton Port. The Ports of Christchurch and Timaru have been invited to tender to be the construction site. It is essential that it be Lyttelton Port where this takes place.
The holding company for all Christchurch City Council investments is Christchurch City Holdings Ltd (CCHL). In its vision statement CCHL states:
To seek, on behalf of the Council, investment opportunities that have the potential to enhance the economic, social, and environmental well-being of the region, to provide an adequate return, and to meet the strategic objectives of the Council. In order to balance these objectives, CCHL may in appropriate circumstances accept a lower return or slower route to profitability.
This project complies perfectly with the challenge of investment opportunities that have the potential to enhance the economic, social, and environmental well-being of the region.
To the Board members of Lyttelton Port Company Ltd and CCHL this is an opportunity to enhance both the economic, social and environmental well being of the region. Don’t mess it up.
Timaru Port (partially owned by Tauranga) will be very competitive and this will require the Directors of Lyttelton Port Company to look beyond immediate profitability and to remember that they are the trustees of one of the really important ways this City trades with the world. I would imagine that the Port of Timaru, with its North Island dominated Board, will be pretty excited about sticking one up Christchurch. If the Lyttelton Port company miss out on this tender I would expect the Board of CCHL to look hard at just how effective the current Board really is.
Christchurch expects every person to do their duty. If I could misquote Winston Churchill.
Christchurch has long-term links with Antarctica. I remember attending a 100-year memorial ceremony at Warners Hotel in the Square. The ceremony took place exactly 100 years after Captain Scott’s last meal in Christchurch; before he set off on his fateful final trip to Antarctica. We had the same menu (including the only time I have eaten jugged hare) as the Scott expedition had eaten. We sat in the same room. We had the representatives of the same organisations which had farewelled Scott and his team, and each took turns to speak. Even Ed Hillary was there. He gave a hilarious speech.
I remember when he sat down his wife, June, told him off because he was supposed to talk about Scott and that he hadn’t really covered him much. Ed replied “buggar it. I just thought I’d tell them a few stories”. I don’t think repentance was high on Ed’s list of behaviours.
When I think of my role as Mayor to ensure that the USA, Italian and other dignitaries felt welcome in this City. How we wined and dined American reps. How many nights we drank with the crews from around the world preparing for their journey and work at Antarctica at Warners Public Bar.
How I travelled to Tasmania with Lou Sanson to talk to Laura Giddens, then Minister of Antarctic for Tasmania, to talk them out of lobbying for USA to shift their Antarctic base to Tasmania. How we welcomed Princess Anne (the best British Royal we met) to Christchurch after she had travelled to Scott Base as Patron of the Heritage Trust. The Princess was a huge hit on the base as she fitted in so well with the team down there.
I returned to Antarctica with an illustrious crew when Ed Hillary travelled for the last time to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of Scott Base. It is worth a future article on this trip. However, it is interesting to note that the original hut for this expedition left from Lyttelton. Just as the equipment which accompanied the Scott and Amundsen expedition.
The Port of Lyttelton has been where all Antarctica expeditions have been farewelled. We expect all of our civic leaders and publicly owned organisations to ensure that the tradition of the past nearly 120 years is retained.