MAYOR: We're lucky to hit the ground running
Images of the carnage caused by Cyclone Gabrielle have dominated our news feeds this week and our thoughts go out the people and authorities who have been battered by the winds and rain.
Recovery will be a long process, and will take a financial, physical and mental toll. We are lucky in the Ashburton District not to be seriously affected, though of course we can recall our own flooding event 18 months ago.
With extreme weather events escalating, it is time for central government to co-invest in flood protection work because our changing climate is a national issue and ratepayers cannot be expected to shoulder all the bill for critical work.
We’ve hit our dry ground running in 2023, with a budget, a by-election, and a big breakfast that I hope will create opportunities for our young people in terms of jobs and training.
Councillors and Council staff have had a first and thorough run through the budget for 2023-24 and we will work hard to keep the average rate rise as low as possible. Our Long Term Plan indicated a 5.5 per cent rise and it will be a real balancing act to achieve that given inflation has been running at just above 7 per cent.
We’re very aware the rising cost of living is a big issue for many households in the district and so our focus for the budget is a stick-to-the-basics, no frills one.
That means delaying some projects, like plans to create a lovely new entrance for the Ashburton Domain, but we need to prioritise wants against essential work, especially when it comes to our roads.
The by-election for the Western Ward is officially under way, with nominations open today for candidates. There’s plenty of information on the voteashburton.nz website for both potential candidates and voters.
Nominations close on 16 March and if a postal vote is needed, that will happen in late April.
Three Council events within 24 hours last week also served to remind me of the wide range of activities that come with this job.
On Wednesday 8 February, Deputy Mayor Liz McMillan and I attended the NZ Chinese Association’s New Year celebrations in Christchurch, along with a number of MPs and councillors from Christchurch City.
This was a good opportunity to connect with the Chinese community and the MPs that were also there, and the food was amazing!
Then on Thursday morning I launched a programme to local business people that sees Council partnering with the nationwide Mayors Taskforce for Jobs to get more young people into jobs, education or training.
After the breakfast, councillors and I visited Fonterra’s Clandeboye plant for a tour of the factory, where milk from our Ashburton farmers mainly goes.
Fonterra farmers in our district collectively get paid $1.2 billion, which those farmers then spend on goods and services. Ashburton’s GDP is $2.6 billion, so this makes up a reasonable amount of our GDP.
Fonterra wants to connect with us more closely going forward and is looking to invest in community projects. This has to be a positive for our district and we will take up the offer.
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