On Saturday, July 18 our district went into full recovery mode – again. My house had minimal flood damage, but some neighbours, friends, family, farms and businesses weren't so lucky.
The past two weeks of flood clean-up and recovery have put even more pressure on communities which suffered from the effects of drought and the economic impact of Covid-19. To say we're having a difficult year is putting it mildly – just ask those farmers, business owners, and all who have had their employment affected and livelihoods put at risk.
I have never before experienced such a set of large-scale events, so close together. This sequence of events is unprecedented, and our response has had to be equally unique.
We have seen communities pull together, helping those in need and supporting local businesses as much as possible. Emergency services, contractors, community groups, volunteers, marae and churches, members of the public, the District Health Board, Ministry of Education, Civil Defence and Whangārei District Council (among many other agencies) all worked long hours to maintain and repair services.
Our definition of "normal" has been completely thrown out the window, and amongst it all, we've had to continue with business as usual as best we can.
I am often in awe of how resilient our community is, and I would like to make special mention of the Whangārei Returned and Services Association (RSA) on Rust Ave. They've successfully negotiated a move into their new premises during these unprecedented times, and it has been wonderful to see how respected and well-supported they are.
Whangārei's wonderful Cadet Forces were onsite to help with their relocation, and this weekend I had the pleasure of attending the final flag lowering at the Rust Ave premises. My hat is off to everyone involved, and I am sure the RSA will continue to be as popular as ever in their new location on Hannah St.
Soon, we will be seeing movement on the old RSA site as the new civic building construction gets under way. This evening (from 5-6pm) an information session is being held in the Cafler Suite at Forum North, giving neighbours and nearby businesses an idea of construction timelines and possible disturbances.
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While we're still some distance away from seeing the completed building, it's exciting to know progress is being made, and it's important that those who live and work nearby are given all the information they need to minimise disruption.
Another wonderful example of pulling together within our community can be seen in the newly-announced apprentice and trainee partnership between Whangārei District Council and NorthTec.
This partnership will see a minimum of 10 per cent local apprentices or trainees working onsite for the construction of the new civic building. In practical terms, that means one in every 10 workers onsite will be learning a new trade, or gaining valuable skills in an area they're already studying. Opening pathways into employment is critical right now, this initiative is a big step in the right direction.
My thoughts go out to those who are still in recovery mode from Covid-19 and the recent flooding, we can only hope that the worst is behind us, and that the best is yet to come.
• Sheryl Mai is mayor of Whangārei District.