Clutha District Mayor Bryan Cadogan
A few weeks out of lockdown and we’re all starting to get a better understanding of where things are for our district’s economy.
Sure, like everyone else we’ve taken one on the chin, but it’s going to take more than that to knock Clutha over.
With the momentum we had in the economy pre-Covid, and the fact rural areas have fared comparatively well, we are as favourably placed as anywhere to bounce back.
Key indicators still need a wee bit more time to solidify their positions but the signs are encouraging.
The core components of our rural economy are holding in there and, while prices are fluctuating, sheep and beef are almost back to pre-Covid, and dairy, for this year at least, is promising.
Consents for building in the district are still being lodged at record levels and the number of consents since we came back from lockdown has shown an encouraging surge, which augurs well for the trades.
Anyone feeling things are a bit flat needs only to go for a drive around Plantation Heights subdivision — what a tonic to see the throng of activity up there.
And with a flurry of sales in the past couple of weeks, we are getting close to selling out all the sections.
Retail is not quite back to normal, with mixed results.
The imminent closure of H&J Smith is a bitter blow, and our thoughts have to be with staff and families at this unsettling time, but it would be wrong to blame this situation on Covid-19.
We managed to put together what I thought was a viable and compelling rescue package to H&J Smith’s management.
But the reasoning for their decision run deep, and they have been considering this move for some time, with the desire to reconfigure the business model prevailing.
They did tell me that the shop was still profitable, and it is frustrating that they should choose this time to make their move, especially after New Zealand taxpayers supported them with over $1.8 million in wage subsidies during lockdown.
But we must look to the future and with Entity, White Willow and now H&J Smith gone there is a huge vacuum that surely will be filled.
It is a timely reminder of the importance of shopping locally.
Many doomsday merchants are predicting huge numbers of people to be losing their jobs.
Southland estimates 5000 job losses for the district.
However, it’s not the same in Clutha.
If you take the seasonally adjusted figures into consideration, we are calculating that we have somewhere in the vicinity of 60 people affected.
A recent stocktake of the district indicates we are still in job surplus and there is a sound reasoning behind the assertion that we are not on the precipice of a crisis.
Clutha Development’s Sarah Homer recently met locals around the district to assist in hastening the process back into employment.
Her feedback is that Clutha’s jobs on offer have shrunk, but we’re still in positive territory.
Central Government is also poised to support our district, with six shovel-ready projects totalling $84.5 million from Clutha going through to the final selection process.
Each of these projects will be another critical step to repairing the damage.
There is one major component to our district’s well-being and future vitality that we all have a part to play in, and that’s to stay positive, and believe in our ability to prevail.