A challenging year in review

Published on 16 December 2021

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This is my final column for the year, and I think all of you will agree that 2021 has been a challenge on many fronts. Locally, our business sector continues to be tested. The loss of tourists, due firstly to the closure of our external borders and then internally as the Auckland lockdown continued week after week, has seen our tourism and hospitality sectors stretched to breaking point. Primary producers are also suffering. Growers have seen crops go unpicked due to a lack of seasonal workers locked out of our region. At the same time, our building industry is booming with record numbers of building consents issued.

Inevitably, most will remember 2021 as the year Delta arrived, Auckland went into an extended lockdown, and the nation joined a collective sprint to get 90% of the population vaccinated. While these events have dominated headlines, I think it is important to remember the many significant accomplishments our district has achieved over the past 12 months. Below, in no particular order, are 10 achievements I think all Far North residents can be proud of. 1/ In May, we completed the largest infrastructure project the Council has ever undertaken when we switched more than 1300 Kerikeri households and businesses over to the new $27.1 million Kerikeri Wastewater Project. 2/ We began work on the long-awaited Kaitāia Water Project that will significantly improve drought resilience for our second largest town. 3/ The Council delivered numerous infrastructure projects under the COVID-19 economic stimulus programme and boosted opportunities for local businesses and workers through a new focus on social procurement. 4/ We completed a record number of capital roading projects. 5/ A new $1.5 million Northern Area Animal Shelter was completed near Kaitāia. 6/ The Council supported the ongoing development of a fantastic sports hub for Te Hiku at Kaitāia and began work on a sports hub at Waipapa for the Bay of Islands. At the same time, Lindvart Park in Kaikohe, is also undergoing a major revamp. 7/ In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we adopted a very popular hybrid home/office working model for staff that is now up for a national award. We have also led the way within local government in getting frontline staff double vaccinated. 8/ Our Building Consents Authority Team was ranked among the top quarter of building consent authorities in New Zealand, processing 99.63% of applications between July 2020 and October 2021 within the 20-day limit. 9/ Efforts to ensure the Far North gets 100% connected to the digital world were recognised when our Nothing But Net campaign won the Martin Jenkins Award for Better Policy and Regulation. And 10/, we adopted Māori Wards and reviewed the way our district is represented to ensure governance is fair and effective. We can all be proud of these wins, achieved despite the many challenges we faced this year. Those challenges make it even more important that this holiday season we take a break and enjoy the company of friends and whanau. Please, drive carefully, look after each other and have a great Christmas and New Year.