Amid rising case numbers and now the appalling invasion of Ukraine, it is important to still recognise that we continue making progress and that good things are still happening.
Our Hundertwasser is proof of that. It is wonderful to see this quirky, gorgeous building, filled with Hundertwasser's own art and the Wairau Maori Art Centre finally open.
The project is a testament to 30 years of dreams, hard work and perseverance from many local people.
Standing on the roof garden on Saturday watching the way the building curves around the Hatea was an extraordinary moment.
It did not, as the advert says, happen overnight. Close friends and family have been deeply involved for many years and it has been difficult and draining work.
For a while there, with the referendum it felt like our town had split into two camps: Recriminations ran high but, if social media is anything to go by, many of those who were opposed or on the fence have now become proud supporters. It isn't only beautiful: already we are seeing more out-of-town visitors.
Meanwhile, the project, delivered through government investment of $18.5 million from the Provincial Growth Fund with the balance from private donations, charities, community fundraising and some council support, was a major contributor to the Whāngarei economy through Covid-19, employing over 500 people.
The project employed local architects, designers, project managers and builders, (some of whom tell me they'll never be the same having had to learn the value of building in anything but a straight line). Then there's the bright gold exclamation mark of a Dr Seuss gold cupola, which is, as someone reliant on a scooter and crutches nowadays, also very accessible: roomy lifts, a chair lift to the cupola and my scooter handled the curves like a pro.
The courage to pursue a vision is a remarkable thing. Looking to our region's future, this week also saw the announcement of another kind of vision.
For about a year now the Marsden Refinery Working Group, of which I am a member, has been looking at alternatives for the site.
I argue there's an opportunity to reconsider the energy future of our whole region, taking our eggs out of a single basket and basing our future on what we have: great natural resources in sun, wind and wave and smart, driven people.
That's why I am delighted that Transpower, Northpower and Top Energy have put out for consultation a proposal for us to become the first New Zealand Renewable Energy Zone, investing in the infrastructure needed to create renewable energy all over Northland, enabling us to become more energy self-sufficient, and possibly even an exporter of renewable energy to our hungry neighbour Auckland.
I strongly encourage you to consider writing a submission in support so that we don't miss out to some other region.
It's a bold step. Hundertwasser would, I suspect, have approved.
A webinar will be held on March 31 at 1pm – you can register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYocOGrqz0vH9I4WyMcwXCXsTjc90P5pmOg