From the Mayor - Come Together as a Community

10/09/2014 12:00 a.m.

Tomorrow at 12.15pm we'll come together to remember Peg Noble and Leigh Cleveland who were killed by a gunman at Ashburton's Work and Income office last Monday.

A Community Civic Service is being held by the clock tower to help with the healing process as we come to terms with the tragedy that has struck our close-knit community.

We've all been directly or indirectly affected by the shooting and the public service is one way we can stand strong as a community and show our support to the victims' families and to Lindy Curtis who was seriously injured.

Last week's tragic events are something a Mayor never wants to have happen in his district. I'll never forget the moment I heard the news that three people at the Ashburton WINZ office had been shot.

I'd just stepped out of a meeting when I was approached by a Council staff member who took me aside and broke the news to me. I was speechless. My first reaction was that it just couldn't be true, but the dozens of voice and text messages left on my phone from media said otherwise. 

It's news you just don't expect, or ever want to hear - especially as we live in such a safe and trusting community. It came as a huge shock, one that's rocked Ashburton – and from the numerous messages of condolences – the nation as well.

During that horror day I was approached by a young woman who asked me if it was safe for her to return home. She lived alone and near the area where police were searching. She said she felt scared and vulnerable and wasn't sure what to do. When someone tells me they feel unsafe in our community, it affects me deeply knowing her thoughts may have reflected what others were also thinking.

Ashburton is a safe place. Last Monday's shooting doesn't represent who we are as a community, what defines us is how we respond.

While we heard and read reports of Ashburton being a town under siege, what I saw was a community looking after its own.

Businesses were putting in place precautionary measures to keep staff safe, schools were locking doors, pulling down blinds and keeping children away from windows and generally most people were doing what they could to help.

There's been understandably an outpouring of grief and we'll continue to support and send our love to the families affected by this terrible act. We have a strong community, but we are hurting from having two of our own taken from us.

It will take us a long time to fully come to terms with the events and I urge everyone to look out for one another, to show support and help them as much as you can. A listening ear, a cup of tea, a smile can make such a difference.

Page reviewed: 29 Sep 2014 3:31pm