Advocacy a key component of leadership

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.​

Page reviewed: 31 May 2019 2:31pm