Clutha’s brighter future

This time of the year inevitably brings analysis of the past and hopes for the future and, in keeping with the onwards and upwards mentality, 2022 was a good year for Clutha, and the next 12 months offer so much.

We continue to be the envy of much of the country with low unemployment, a glut of jobs, relatively affordable housing and the opportunity for a great work/life balance.

But 2023 is set to be a defining year with so many key projects coming to fruition and so many milestones to celebrate.

A real critical achievement for our district in the near future is the prediction of our population breaking through the 19,000 mark once again.

It’s been more than 20 years since we last achieved this, and it is easy to forget the systemic drain on the social cohesion of our communities that population decline causes.

Clutha’s population was estimated to have bottomed out at about 16,400, as predominantly our young ones left in their droves, taking with them their vibrancy and ability to sustain schools, critical services and many of the base requirements a community needs to flourish.

I am proud of our district’s awareness and underlying understanding and support of what needed to be done to enhance the restorative process that we colloquially have labelled the ‘‘Living and Working in Clutha’’ strategy.

It’s taken time to gain momentum, but we are now seeing tangible progress and the next 12 months are not only going to be exciting, but will also herald the real changes our district needed to provide the foundation stones for a progressive future.

People demand base services and a realistic chance to flourish before they will commit their life endeavours to a particular area.

On the flip-side, those places that continue to sit back on their haunches will see that the malaise will only further entrench itself.

I see hubs, main street upgrades, swimming pools and other community facilities as building blocks that are required to attract people to Clutha, and collectively we gain the critical mass needed to sustain ourselves.

It may seem to some that this is a rather clinical analysis, but we need to be clinical and strategic in our thinking to enable Clutha to push on.

So in the next 12 months, when Milton sees key projects like the main street upgrade, the cycle trail or the progress being made on the community swimming pool project, know that this is the catalyst to Milton becoming the largest town in our district.

And it’s the same with every ‘‘Kai Build’’ house, the destination toilets that will strengthen local retail, and the completion of the Naish Park project or the stunning Clutha Community Hub: it’s all part of the wider strategy to retain and attract people to Clutha.

We have the jobs, we have the scenery and lifestyle, we have the comparatively affordable housing — add to these the additional community facilities that enable the further development of robust communities, and 2023 is shaping up as a special year.

So, let’s celebrate with a family-focused and safe Christmas break where we can recharge the batteries and look forward to the special times that lie ahead.

Merry Christmas everyone.