MAYOR: From adversity comes opportunity

Published: 26 May 2022

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We will mark two special events in the coming week, both which demonstrate the remarkable ability of the Ashburton district to recover from adversity and prove its economic resilience.

On Friday, the ANZ Business of the Year Awards will conclude with a gala evening at the Mt Hutt Memorial Hall in Methven. There, some outstanding businesses will be recognised – outstanding because they have survived covid by using their talent to grow, pivot or recreate themselves in a time that has been universally bleak around the world.

All those who entered deserve congratulations and I know the judges had a very difficult time when it came to choosing finalists and then ultimately winners.

It is timely to thank all our local businesses for choosing to trade right here in this district. Our communities need you and should be supporting you.

The second event marks the one-year anniversary of the May 2021 floods, when we hit the national headlines because of a weather bomb that effectively cut the South Island in two.

This time 12 months ago, 540mm was falling out of the sky at Mount Somers, resulting in record flows in the Hinds and Ashburton Rivers and a state of local emergency being declared.

Around 1500 people living in Allenton and Netherby were warned they might need to evacuate but the Ashburton River breached upstream and relieved pressure on the river closer to town and this was avoided.

Others living much closer to the Ashburton River, and the Hinds, self-evacuated.

Several key roads were closed, KiwiRail halted trains, boil water notices were issued for Methven, Montalto, Methven-Springfield and Mt Somers; schools closed. Then, on 1 June, a pier of the Ashburton River State Highway 1 bridge slumped and the bridge was closed; traffic was re-routed via the inland route. Suddenly, this was an event that affected everyone in the district and the wider South Island.

It is fair to say though that farmers and people living by the rivers were hardest hit where floodwaters escaped and spilled gravel and debris onto farms, and a few houses were flooded.

Nearly 280 properties were affected, with uninsurable damage up to $14m.

While Civil Defence and the usual helping agencies came together to assist where they could, individuals also stepped up offering physical and emotional help. This was hugely appreciated.

Our Council infrastructure was also damaged and roads in particular took a hammering. While emergency repairs got under way as soon as possible, the work took priority over regular maintenance and that has had a knock-on effect.

However, out of adversity brings opportunity. Covid and the floods have presented challenges that have tested us but we will look back in time and see that we have performed very well under pressure … after all, that’s how diamonds are made.

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