THIS is the final day of the year, and thus incumbent upon me to give a decent reflection.
Since moving to Wairarapa in April, I know perfectly well I have yet to see the best that the area has to offer but I've seen some pretty amazing things.
If you asked a Wellingtonian what comes to mind when they think of Wairarapa, it would likely be hazy, hot image of wineries, boutique shops and cafes. It's perhaps ironic Wellingtonians tend to picture the South Wairarapa first, when places like Featherston struggle to keep their main street vibrant. Based in Wellington, that was my viewpoint as well.
Now I've learnt Wairarapa's a community that has lots of room to move, but is often content not to move too much. It's a community where agriculture rules but small businesses struggle. It's a community that does not engage strongly with local government, but has a quiet expectation that those in office will be honourable and diligent on their behalf, and things will get done. It's a community with little tolerance for slackers.
Anger is not unique to one town, but Masterton, with its diversity and socio-economic disparities, appears to have the bigger share. Poverty is not a quiet disease. It manifests itself in crime, drink, assaults, and our court is busy. Sometimes Masterton feels like a woman resigned to being unattractive - but this year, like discovering makeup for the first time, it seems to be enjoying putting on a bit of slap. Kuripuni's shopping area and the Masterton town square are two examples of getting glammed up, and then you realise how good-looking other parts are. Others fixate on history, such as the decaying Archer St cemetery, and insist on preservation at all costs.
I am encouraged by the refresh brought about by a new mayor, the energy of developer Dave Borman, a sense of investment in Masterton's appearance, and the concept of more people moving to Wairarapa. Remember, New Zealand's greatest population growth was in Carterton?
The common thread to it all is people - he tangata. More people means subdivisions, beautification, shops and businesses. Perhaps we're not good at seeing it, but we are desirable. We are attractive. And things work just fine.