When we found out that we were coming to St Helena, our friends on Tristan assured us of a warm welcome. We were not disappointed. It was astonishing how many people here approached us in the street to welcome us and tell us about friends they had down on Tristan. It was a great start. Thank you.
Reflecting on the last year or so, it has been a busy time for everyone. The airport project has continued on track and on budget. We have visited the site three times over the last nine months and never ceased to be amazed at what everyone has achieved there. The Dry Gut fill is an astonishing piece of work.
After much deliberation and discussion, decisions were taken on the Jamestown hotel and Enterprise St Helena, with its refocus on supporting local businesses, both new and existing, has seen a significant increase in the number of loans and grant applications it has received and approved. Economic development is on the way.
In the education sector we saw some of the best results and I was honoured to represent the Governor at the awards ceremony at Prince Andrew School only a few weeks ago, where so many of the students received their well-deserved awards.
We also recognise the work of charities and others in the voluntary sector who do so much to enrich their community – and of our sporting youth who were such fine ambassadors for St Helena at this year’s Commonwealth Games.
2015 promises to be an even busier year as the airport opening fast approaches. We also have work on the Rupert’s Wharf project, hospital refurbishment, the new prison and new fire station to push forward. These projects are all for the benefit and long term wellbeing of the community at large.
Later on in the year we look forward to welcoming visitors and dignitaries to the Island for the bicentenary of Napoleon’s arrival here when an exciting programme of events is being organised.
Work continues on providing a sea freight service to St Helena and Ascension after the RMS, as does the contract to provide an air service to the Island. We should be able to say more about these in the next few weeks. There is still a considerable amount of work to do as we prepare for airport certification and there are many across SHG and elsewhere engaged in this work. We look forward to seeing test flights in July!
But there have also been problems to address this year, not least around safeguarding those most vulnerable in our society. We have taken steps to increase capacity in this area and with the help of our partners in London, and have secured additional staff and other resources to improve and embed the way we approach these difficult issues. The creation of a new Safeguarding Directorate is a really positive move as is the opening of Ebony View, which will replace the CBU in February. As you know, the Foreign Secretary has commissioned an Inquiry into the way we manage these issues. The team arrives in March and will be here for just over two weeks. We welcome this and look forward to delivering those recommendations that come from the Inquiry. We have a real opportunity here to make a big and lasting difference.
So as you can see, we have many challenges ahead, but as we all pull together I am confident we can achieve a great deal over the next twelve months.
Christmas is also a time when we remember those who have lost close friends and family and think of those who are unwell or lonely at this time. Our thoughts and prayers go to you all.
The Governor is looking forward to returning to the Island on 3 January, just in time to welcome the arrival of the yachts taking part in the Governor’s Cup, the first big event of the year. Both he and Mrs Capes send their best wishes for the Christmas period and wish you all a peaceful and happy time over the festive season.
Marina and I join them in this and wish you all a Happy Christmas and New Year.