What a week for Clutha to celebrate, with both the Clutha Gold Trail extension and Te Pou o Mata-Au Clutha District War Memorial & Community Centre opening tomorrow.

I attended the landholders’ function at Waitahuna last Friday to acknowledge the generosity and community awareness shown by the owners of the land the new cycle trail meanders through. It brought home the efforts and sacrifices our wider communities have to make in order to deliver projects of this magnitude.

Our district owes a huge debt of gratitude to all those that contributed to these projects. What a gift they have created for us all to benefit from, but it has been a community effort with everyone giving what they could.

Both these projects were central to the council’s wider Living and Working strategy, creating a more vibrant and appealing district, a district that could retain its young people and attract others. For too long our sons and daughters had deserted the area, seeing no future here for themselves, but not any more. In recent times we have seen dividends to this investment in our collective future with our population soaring back upward.

We needed to sharpen our act because the malaise of chronic population decline affects us all, with school numbers, hospital numbers and social, cultural and economic decline. There is a plethora of projects both under construction and in the development stage right across the district. For the overwhelming majority, these projects are being driven by groups of dedicated locals that have grasped the opportunities presented for their townships. And it’s these locals that Friday’s celebration is all about. This is a chance to acknowledge and thank those who stood up and were willing to be counted on when their community was in need.

Another similarity between these two projects was the exceptionally good fortune for our district that the timing aligned with the Provincial Growth Fund and the various iterations of Covid relief funding, how instrumental Mark Patterson was in securing both these investments from central government. Put bluntly, we could not have achieved either project without the phenomenal support from Wellington.

Thanks too to Calder Stewart for what you have contributed to both projects, your sense of social awareness and fairness is a testament to the ethos of the company and the legacy that the late Bruce Stewart would undoubtedly be proud of.

Friday is celebration time. Onwards and upwards.