Cr Richard Wilson: Making a difference starts with a good plan

Published: 23 March 2023

As a new councillor, I want to make a difference for the betterment of our community - whether this is ensuring our water is clean to drink in town or our roads are fit for purpose.

This was brought home to me during council’s deliberation on the annual plan. There are multiple needs for a finite resource (money) and core services like water and roads compete against social programmes and community assets like the EA Networks Centre, the Ashburton Art Gallery and Museum and the Ashburton Event Centre.

At the same time the rate burden must fall on those who benefit.

A good example is urban water where our council is funding upgrades to comply with national standards. Rural Mid Canterbury households not connected to these urban supplies do not pay drinking water rates but they are still faced with higher costs to upgrade their own private supplies.

Our roads are in need of improvement like many of the nation’s roads and the extra funding put into this year’s annual plan is a welcome addition. While there is more work to do in the roading space, I believe our annual plan gets the mix right between maintaining and improving services across the board.

I attended my first Rural and Provincial Local Government conference recently and the event was naturally dominated by the recovery efforts under way in areas hit by Cyclone Gabrielle.

While the damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure was significant, we heard how communities were pulling together with local people and local organisations getting stuck in to help.

All the affected districts said the key message was being able to communicate, whether that be emergency services, checking on your family and neighbours, or on river level and weather data recorders.

The cyclone should also make us all consider our own preparedness. Do I have an emergency pack ready? If I have a generator, does it work?

Have a plan.

I learned that Local Government New Zealand supports councils in many ways, including lobbying Government, upskilling councillors, and giving a forum for councils to learn from each other’s experiences.

The rate of change in Government policies is staggering and our Council submits on many bills. Keeping an eye on how Central Government policies and plans affect us in the Ashburton district is hugely important – and just like Local Government, the people making decisions can change every three years if voters are unhappy.

The people of the Western Ward have a chance to have their say in the by-election and a high turnout when voting starts next month would show that democracy is still alive and well in Mid Canterbury.

Finally, I must make mention of the recent Mayfield A&P show – it was a great, well-run family event with pig racing, tractor pulling, sheep shearing, horses and of course the Lions chocolate wheel. We live in a great district.

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