It seems hard to believe that another year is now close to an end, but as we look back at the year that was, it's also great to see some wonderful things coming up on the horizon.
On the Council-front, this year has been a big one. The local body elections delivered a new term of Council in October, and I was very humbled and honoured to be elected as Mayor. Our balanced team of new and experienced elected members is settling in well into their new roles, and I have greatly enjoyed meeting other mayors from across the region, South Island and nation at large over the last few months.
Several key infrastructure projects have begun that will enhance our district. The Ashburton River Crossing and Pump Station project is now well underway. This will ensure Ashburton's wastewater network can continue to meet the needs of a growing population and future-proof the network for generations to come.
The plans to revitalise Ashburton's town centre has made significant headway, with physical works to the streetscape set to begin early next year.
The Rakaia Salmon Site is the focus of a much needed upgrade. We were very fortunate to receive funding from the Government's Tourism Infrastructure Fund of almost $740,000 to help install new toilet facilities and improve landscaping, which includes playground equipment, rubbish bins, signage and lighting. The Council is contributing $197,590 from its 2020 budget to complete the work, combined with a generous $20,000 contribution from the Rakaia Lions.
Roading has continued to be a big priority for the Council, with millions of dollars invested in this core infrastructure. The Beach Road rehabilitation comes to mind as one of our biggest roading projects this year that has delivered quality improvements for residents.
The Ng King Brothers Chinese Market Garden Settlement on Allens Road reached an important milestone, with the site declared archeologically significant, becoming only the eighth post-1900 site in the country to receive this honour from Heritage New Zealand.
Next year, Ashburton will have the honour of hosting the national Sister Cities Conference in April. This outstanding event poses great potential for investment and opportunities, not to mention the economic benefits of visitors staying and spending in our district. A lot of work has been quietly happening throughout this year to make the Conference a reality, and I look forward to it all coming together in a few months' time.
Although there has been much to celebrate in 2019, there have also been terrible tragedies that will be with us forever.
Our thoughts continue to be with the families and friends of those taken during the Christchurch mosque attacks, in our community and on our roads. At times of fear, immense sorrow and disbelief, our community has rallied together in solitude to reject hatred, provide comfort and support those in need.
I hope that like me, you will hold your loved ones even tighter this holiday season and appreciate the important things in our lives. Tragically, not everyone will have the chance to do that this year and my thoughts are with them.
On that note, I hope that you are able to create many wonderful memories with friends and family this Christmas. If you are travelling away, please be extra careful on the roads. Be safe, enjoy your time together and I look forward to working with you to make the Ashburton District an even greater place in the New Year.