I honestly believe that within five years Christchurch will be recognised nationally and internationally as THE city of choice. It’s got everything you would want or need from a metropolitan area. A good health system, good education system, good connectivity to the world, and it’s easy to get around. Add to that the rebuild and all the wonderful new facilities and housing stock that comes with it. That’s pretty hard to beat.

I’ve been part of the rebuild since it began and believe passionately in the future of this city. I want to be part of that. My latest role is as the independent chair of Te Papa Hauora/Christchurch Health Precinct.

Health is a sector with enormous potential. Te Papa Hauora was deliberately seeded in our city to take advantage of the clear opportunities for collaboration and building on the wonderful initiatives already happening.

Te Papa Hauora is a unique collection of stakeholders involved in health education, research and innovation. It is also a dedicated physical area of our beautiful city.

Te Papa Hauora’s founding partners already excel in their fields. The Canterbury DHB is the largest employer in the South Island and world-renowned for its innovation. The Universities of Otago and Canterbury, and Ara, all do outstanding health research and train health professionals. But they can achieve more by working together. By connecting more, or for the first time, with businesses involved in health innovation, equipment or services.

Since its establishment in 2016, Te Papa Hauora has successfully focused on building the relationships between partners, and building the asset of the Manawa building in the heart of the precinct. Over the next few years Te Papa Hauora will work on extracting value from what has already been built. I’m excited to be part of this stage which will focus on delivering in three key areas.

The first area is better co-ordination of medical research activities. Much world-class research is already done in Christchurch. In fact, our researchers’ reputation and productivity are unmatched in New Zealand. But the sector is fragmented, and people often work in silos. Te Papa Hauora will help entities come together and maximise the benefits of their knowledge for the wider community.

The second area is the reform of health education. In future, the way people receive health care will be radically different.  Health care will largely be delivered in the community by a range of professionals. Despite this impending seismic change, health education still focuses mainly on preparing people to work in hospitals. Nurses will play a key role in this future. All of Te Papa Hauora’s partners are involved in nursing and nurse education. By bringing our partners together on this issue, Te Papa Hauora can make a meaningful difference and help them achieve what would be difficult to do individually.

The third area – one close to my heart – is linking Christchurch businesses with Te Papa Hauora partners. Christchurch businesses produce everything from prosthetics through to latest-technology imaging and simulation products. Te Papa Hauora will bring together the people making health-related equipment or services with people who can research their potential, and people who will ultimately use them. For their collective benefit.

If Te Papa Hauora can make measureable progress in these three areas within the next two years, I will be happy. Te Papa Hauora will be fulfilling its potential to improve the city’s health sector and outcomes for its community.

Peter Townsend, Independent Chair of Te Papa Hauora.