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Wednesday 29 May, 2019
Representing your community is undoubtedly an incredible honour, and
from my own experience, it is one that entails a great deal of responsibility
and passion. One of my duties as Mayor is to lend my voice to the cause of the
Ashburton District and its people, and to advocate for the resources that we
need. Of late, this task has been particularly critical.
As the ongoing efforts to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis from the country
continues, I am seeing the uncertainty and incredible stress the disease has
unleashed affecting parts of our farming community.
Farming is not just a job or vocation: for many, it is a way of life,
and not knowing the future of herds you’ve worked hard to build and care for
must be devastating. That’s why in late April, I brought together a group of
representatives from the local agricultural and health industries to address
these ongoing concerns.
Our objective is to help facilitate discussions between Ministry for
Primary Industries (MPI) and relevant organisations to ensure information is
consistently shared in a timely and targeted manner.
In the group, I’m joined by representatives from Federated Farmers,
Dairy NZ, Beef & Lamb NZ, Rural Support Trust Mid Canterbury, Vet Ent, Ashburton
Hospital, and of course, MPI. I am very proud to be working with these
organisations, and my hope is that together we can provide a united front for
our community and help get the latest information from MPI out to the people
who so dearly want it and support those going through this process.
Late last year, we learnt that Ashburton District is the sixth most
desired district for business and the twelfth for quality of life out of 66
districts. The Council-commissioned ‘Ashburton Labour Force Plan’ reported that
improving the quality of living in Ashburton, promoting our story, and training
the future workforce will help close the gap between labour demand and supply
in our district, potentially adding at least $16 million to our economy.
This is an issue that goes right to the core of our community and
identity. There is an urgent an ongoing need to attract more people to our
region, and with low unemployment, affordable housing, excellent schools, and
great amenities, we have much to offer.
Selwyn District Mayor, Sam Broughton and I lead the Newcomer and Migrant
Settlement programme, under the Canterbury Regional Economic Development
Strategy, so I have a particular interest and role to play in encouraging the
settlement of skilled workers in our region.
I use every opportunity to promote this cause for the betterment of our
district. The 2020 Sister Cities Conference coming to Ashburton will be an
invaluable way to tell our story to an attentive national and international
audience, and our position as a Welcoming Community will only further help to
make newcomers feel at home and more inclined to stay in our little corner of
the country. These are just some of the programmes and events helping to address
the Labour Force Plan, and I will be continuing to front this issue.
At the start of my term as Mayor, people may recall a spree of youth
crime in Ashburton. Through community engagement and the hard work of our local
Police, this has been addressed. There was also work to increase Police
resources in Ashburton, and I’m pleased to see that those efforts have resulted
in an additional four new Police recruits in town. I’m looking forward to the
continued period of stability this Police presence has in our district, under
the watch of our new Senior Sergeant, Leigh Jenkins.
There are still a number of issues I’m looking to on the advocacy front.
There is work to be done on trying to reinstate the Inland Scenic Route through
the Rakaia Gorge to a State Highway, and additionally, I am keen to liaise with
the Canterbury District Health Board on what is being done to support mental
health services in our district.
As always, I am very appreciative of the work of our local
representatives in Parliament, Labour List MP Jo Luxton and National MP Andrew
Falloon. Both do a wonderful job of standing up for our community and ensuring
the interests of Ashburton District are heard on a national level.