Weekly column by Kāpiti mayor K Gurunathan.

As we have descended from the heightened threat of Covid-19 lockdown to the assumed safety of level 1, we seem to have quietly folded back these symbols of kindness and neighbourliness into the rigid business as usual box.

The teddy bears in the windows have largely retreated. Out walking, the open greeting of complete strangers has also retreated. This made last week's visit on behalf of council and our communities to the district's 13 GP and medical services very special.

Together with the chairwoman of the Kapiti Health Advisory Group, Kathy Spiers, we delivered gift boxes to the staff in appreciation for the selfless work they did before and during the lockdown.

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The gift boxes, packaged by Kapiti Goodies, also carried the Buy Local message to support our local economies. Let us also not forget the other essential workers like those in our supermarkets, petrol stations and food outlets.

Dr Christine Coulter, left, K Gurunathan and Kathy Spiers.
Dr Christine Coulter, left, K Gurunathan and Kathy Spiers.

Talking of supporting local businesses, on Friday councillor Angela Buswell and I attended the graduation ceremony for the PopUp Business School Aotearoa. More then 20 people were hot-housed though 20 workshops in just one week by a team led by Tony Henderson. Tony is a dynamo and awesome confidence builder.

I brought Tony to Kāpiti three years ago following a recommendation by the Porirua mayor. Support from Wellington NZ and MSD allowed KCDC to facilitate the delivery by the PopUp Business School.

I love attending the graduations. To see people from our local communities, armed with practical skills and infused with confidence, step up and chase their dreams. Tony's can-do business tutelage is also underpinned by ethical values of working with supporting businesses and the community.

Saturday was a busy day with the early morning opening of the Waikanae Market. There is no doubt that over a number of years this market had grown to be a popular weekly event bringing small businesses and the community together.

The trouble was, unlike the other markets in the district, it was unregulated. Making it difficult for council to exercise its regulatory functions especially under the Food Act and the Health & Safety Act. The challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the dangers lurking under this unregulated status.

I'd like to thank market organiser Helen Amey for stepping up to make the transition to a regulated market. Special thanks to the Waikanae Community Board for the financial grant to help the process, especially the board's deputy chairwoman Jill Griggs for her diligent work. Thank you also to council staff led by Alison Law.

Community markets are wonderful places facilitating local businesses, providing affordable fresh produce, functioning as community centres without walls, and low-cost opportunities for start-ups. Community markets are also inter-face spaces between our urban consumers and our rural producers.

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Following the reopening of the market it was a dash back to Ōtaki to open the new premises of the Otaki Pottery Club.

For 30 years it had been located at Ōtaki College. The growing club membership meant it had to spread its wings and, thanks to the Ōtaki-Maori Racing Club, the potters were able to secure a large building at the racing club. Volunteers had pitched in to renovate and repurpose the new premises.

It was a typically warm and friendly Ōtaki event. Within the creative community, the potters are an interesting bunch of people who are continuing an ancient art form.

The last activity for the day was a meeting with another interesting bunch of locals. The AGM of the organic growers co-operative.

There is a need in Kāpiti, as elsewhere, for our urban consumer to be connected to better food supplies. Kāpiti's future is in keeping our provincial identity and values. We should be valuing our rural sector.