Time to lift our economic activity, not social activity

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Clutha District Mayor Bryan Cadogan

This year has been a challenge to us all, but even though this pandemic has been traumatic and will have prolonged and extensive economic and social ramifications, I think it is important, as we manoeuvre our bubble into Level 3, that we take stock of the situation from a regional perspective and acknowledge that we have much to be thankful for.

Firstly, while Covid-19 cast its shadow over the district with five confirmed cases, thankfully we have been fortunate to contain the situation, and no local lives have been lost.
I experienced first-hand the cohesive determination shown every day through the Civil Defence briefings of our magnificent service organisations to ensure that our district was given a wrap›around protection and support of the highest standard, and we all owe these groups a huge debt of gratitude.

Most people would be unaware of the enormous amount of work that went on in the background ensuring an integrated approach was taken by all agencies.

And if, perish the thought, we have further incidence of the virus I take heart in the knowledge that we have an exceptional group ready and capable of responding to our needs, and I thank them all on behalf of the district.

There are a few key indicators that give a comparative insight into how our district is faring compared with the rest of the country that is worth noting, and I do so hesitantly because I acknowledge that to many the events of recent weeks have been devastating, but there are also points to take heart from.

Initial anecdotal feedback shows the number of locals who have permanently lost their jobs is low, and while this will change in the coming weeks, our rural-based economy has fared well compared to the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in tourist towns. We have had an exceptionally high number of people remain active in essential work, quite possibly one of the highest ratios in the country. The resilience that has shone through our rural communities and the connectivity and compassion that has been shown, ensuring the elderly and vulnerable had groups and individuals keeping an eye on them, is something we can all be proud of.

All in all, as we come out of Level 4, our district has as good a chance as any to rebound strongly, and it is up to each and every one of us to play our part in contributing to our nation’s recovery. Resilience and forward planning have paid dividends up until now, but we should continue to be strategic and cautious, putting measures in place to enable us to respond immediately should the need arise.

Our MP, Mark Patterson, raised a good point to me, that one chink in our armour has been the availability of funds to instantly allocate to our many local organisations to assist in their Covid-19 response, and had I considered establishing a mayoral fund, as many people had expressed a desire to assist but would prefer a mechanism to be established for local needs.

Allister Body, of West Otago, and Christine Harrex, of Lawrence, have kindly agreed to assist me in overseeing the distribution of funds to ensure transparency and district›wide consideration. As we prepare to take that next step back to some normalcy, I plead with you all to continue to take precautions because Level 3 actually possesses more risk of communal spread. It’s a time to lift our economic activity, not social activity.

And finally, I wish you the best of health and happiness for whatever the future holds.