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Two important milestones pass this weekend with the official opening of the new Airport terminal and the 25th Nelson Arts Festival. It is great the Prime Minister is joining us for both. They mark a maturing of our region from sleepy hollow of yesteryear year to an innovative city that is buzzing with visitors and creativity.

The new airport terminal is long overdue. Passenger numbers have grown by tenfold over the past 25 years from 100,000 per year to a million a year. I have been advocating for the major upgrade for a decade and played a small part in securing cabinet support in 2016 for the $4million Government investment in the new control tower.  The credit of the superb new terminal goes to our Nelson Airport company ably led by Rob Evans and overseen by the Board chaired by Paul Steere.

Our airport is more than a building. It is where our visitors take in their first impressions of our city. It is where we greet and farewell our loved ones. I used to cringe welcoming guests at Nelson’s old airport with its quaint orange square carpet. Now I swell with pride. I love the use of Nelson Pine laminated timber, the angular roof mirroring our mountains and the open glass frontage celebrating our sunshine and vista. I also take pride in the hundreds of local skilled businesses and tradespeople like Gibbons Construction that have built this iconic building.

Nelson should take equal pride in our Arts Festival. The opening on Friday with the Masked Parade has encouraged thousands of children, including my four, to participate in the arts. One of the biggest supporters was the late Kim Merry who contributed so much to its success. It is a coup for the organisers this year to have Jacinda Ardern as a guest judge.

Arts Festival 2019 also welcomes back the stunning light show Piki Mai which literally brought the city to a standstill in the darkness in 2011. The entire area of the Cathedral and Church steps became a giant 3D screen looming over Trafalgar St depicting moving projections of the history of our region.  Former Nelson schoolboy and now one of this country’s foremost audio-visual artists, Michael Hodgson has made a new, extended version of Piki Mai to enthrall another generation of fans.

This will be the first year the Festival has been run by the Nelson Festivals Trust, stepping away from Nelson City Council control.  It is a bold but natural move and I wish Chair Brent Thawley and the amazing creative team every success with their inaugural event.

Festival events will be enjoyed at our amazingly refurbished facilities of the Suter Art Gallery, Nelson Centre for Musical Arts and the Theatre Royal. These historic venues speak volumes of our rich arts heritage. But they only come to life with the sort of events like those organised through our Arts Festival

To everyone behind the airport opening and the festival, a big thanks to all those helping to make these milestones happen.

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