MAYOR: Planning for covid ... and well beyond

Published: 14 October 2021

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Vaccination is the only game in town at the moment as we gear up for a confrontation with the highly-transmissible Delta strain.

Uncertainty over how and when the coronavirus will spread has us all worried. Council has cancelled Bite Nite and three big public Christmas events out of caution. We hope to keep the virus at bay, but we may not.

That’s why it is crucial our district gets behind the national Super Saturday vaccination day this Saturday and Canterbury’s own 90% For Canterbury campaign, which is the regional target the Canterbury District Health Board wants us to meet by Labour Day (Monday 25 October).

This week, about 20 per cent of our population remain unvaccinated – because they haven’t quite got around to it yet, or are vaccine hesitant or resistant.

There is plenty of excellent information from reliable health sources (covid19.govt.nz) for us to know that vaccination is the best way to protect ourselves against Covid-19. If you know someone who is not yet protected, then please help them get over the line.

Vaccinations are our pathway to a more normal life, a life without lockdowns and where businesses can operate without so many restrictions. A life where events like Bite Nite, Light Up the Nite, shows and rodeos can happen.

It is sometimes hard to think about life without the immediate constraints of covid but in the past couple of weeks Council projects with long-lasting benefits for the future have been uppermost in our thinking.

Relocating the rail hub from the centre of town to Fairton has been made possible with some money from the Government and last week Councillors agreed to progress to the final stage three of a detailed business case for a second bridge over the Ashburton River at Chalmers Avenue.

As well as those big ticket items, the revitalisation of the CBD streetscape is drawing to a close, repairs to the existing State Highway 1 bridge are all but complete and contractors are making good progress on installing two sets of traffic lights at Walnut Avenue.

Not all of these projects are Council’s, but they point to a future where we can get around Ashburton easily and more safely, and once again enjoy our town centre.

The second bridge is an important second connection between Tinwald and Ashburton and gives more resilience to our local roading network as well as South Island freight channels. Importantly, from a funding point of view, Chalmers Avenue has the support of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency - no other locations do.

Council must balance budgets and the whole community’s needs and wishes when it comes to the business of providing services like roads. It is not always plain sailing and in this case the water should be flowing under a bridge at Chalmers Avenue by maybe 2027, earlier if possible.

There has been a lot said about the location over the years and those who want to be fully informed should listen to the robust discussion had by Councillors last week. There is no substitute for getting the news straight from the horse’s mouth.

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