With elections quickly approaching, this will be my final article in the Ashburton Guardian, and it gives me occasion to reflect on what has been.
This has been eventful, rewarding and challenging the first term, starting as a new Mayor with seven first-term councillors. Just after the one year mark, Central Government changed from nine years of National to a Labour-led coalition. I am now on my third Council Chief Executive, fifth Senior Sergeant, and we have operated almost an entire term without a dedicated economic development resource.
As a region, Canterbury has continued to have more than our fair share of civil defence emergencies including earthquakes, fires and floods, along with New Zealand's worst terror attack.
Ashburton has faced two significant biosecurity issues – the Potato Mop Top Virus and Mycoplasma Bovis, the latter of which has earned this district the unfortunate title of being the most impacted in New Zealand. In response, the Ashburton Mycoplasma Advisory Group was formed and has been recognised for its leadership in improving engagement with MPI. It is being pointed to as best practice and is now being replicated in other districts.
Despite these challenges, there have been notable deliveries: the rollout of the wheelie bin system; new public toilets at Lake Camp, Argyle Park and Ashburton Domain; rehabilitation improvements to South Street and Thompsons Track; along with regular ongoing road maintenance and improvement of the fourth largest roading network in New Zealand.
The Havelock North incident has seen significant changes for drinking water and the ramifications of this event will impact not just this district, but the entire nation for many years to come. Council is committed to meeting the revised standards, the first stage of which will be evident with lifting the bore heads and installation of UV Treatment on the Ashburton scheme, with work at the Argyle Park site now underway.
There have been advancements for some longstanding issues and continuing projects, such as remedial work to the Ashburton Art Gallery and Heritage Centre (while we are still pursuing legal action, this has been budgeted in the Annual Plan); air conditioning has been fitted into the EA Networks Centre; consultation on the Ashburton Library & Civic Centre resulted in the community telling us to spend more; the Ashburton Cemetery extension is all but completed; work continues on the CBD revitalisation; and the Ashburton Domain Development Plan will shortly go out for consultation, with a vision for the next 30 years.
At the same time, the Council is embracing and celebrating our heritage and supporting recognition of significant historical sites. Just this week, Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga declared the Chinese Settlement on Allens Road (which is managed by Council) an archaeological site, becoming just the eighth site in the country. We’ve also supported the Ashburton Volunteer Fire Brigade to establish and open their Ashburton Fire Museum, and are working with Historic Places Mid Canterbury and their Blue Plaque project. Under this project, six sites have been recognised – Railway Footbridge, Pioneer Hall, Church of the Holy Name, Mill House, Federated Farmers and Hakatere Station.
In regards to advocacy and working with Central Government, we’ve done well this term. The Ministry of Education has announced $60 million for Ashburton College, Ashburton Intermediate and Allenton Schools. NZ Transport Agency provided an additional $3 million for roading, along with 50 per cent funding for footpaths, and $80,000 for LED Lights.
While the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) targeted surge districts (with high unemployment and limited jobs), I have advocated repeatedly that Ashburton has a different type of surge – high employment opportunities and not enough workers. The PGF has so far supported two applications from our district – the Opuke Hot Pools, with a $7.5 million loan, and a $94,000 loan to advance the business case for Ashburton’s Second Urban Bridge.
In October 2018, ADC received the NZIER Ashburton Labour Force Plan, which identified that for quality of doing business, Ashburton is ranked sixth out of 66 districts, while it ranks twelfth in quality of living. The EA Networks Centre, improved school facilities, Opuke Hot Pools, improved infrastructure – including roading, water, public conveniences, an additional bridge and a new Library and Civic Centre; all add to lifting the quality of living to attract and retain people in this district.
He aha te mea nui o te ao
What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people
So as I sign off, my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the people of the Ashburton District - thank you. It has been both an honour and a privilege to serve as your Mayor for the 2016-19 term.