Sometimes it's nice to be surprised, and last week's visit by Prime Minister Ardern was one of those special surprises that the students of Stratford High School will never forget.
The PM dropped into the senior prizegiving to the elation of students, delivered a short speech, presented prizes and was then mobbed by students wanting selfies and she duly obliged.
Watching this play out, I asked myself where else in the world would this happen? Answer, only in New Zealand. How lucky we are to still maintain access to our political leaders in a way that would be unthinkable in most countries.
Later that day, myself and other regional leaders met with the PM. This was a great opportunity to share our thoughts on important issues. As the mayor of a rural district I took the opportunity to re-iterate the concerns of farmers particularly around fresh water reforms.
While there has been some government movement and compromise in recent months, the costs associated with compliance and monitoring of the fresh water reforms are significant and on going, and the rural community will bear the brunt of paying those costs.
It is a gnarly issue with the environmentalists pushing to do more and do it quicker, while those paying for the changes are saying take it easy and make it affordable. The fresh water reforms along with the three waters reforms for councils will be some of the defining discussion points and actions for the government over this three year term.
Another pleasant surprise last week was the confirmation that all sections in the councils residential subdivision have now been sold. This has happened within just 12 months since it was officially launched.
This project was part of our Long Term Plan and has been a key part of our growth strategy for Stratford. As it turned out the timing of the resulting flurry of building activity has been a real boost to our economic recovery from the Covid related recession.
A key outcome for the project was to increase our rating base which we have successfully achieved by adding 33 more titles to the list. Another positive has been the fact the project has been completed at no cost to the ratepayers. It was always structured to be a self-funded project and it has been, but even better, the project has returned a modest profit providing a benefit that can be shared across the district.
The planned improvements to the drinking water infrastructure in the northwestern corner of town were included within this project and will provide for future growth in this area.
While it was not councils desire to compete with commercial property developers, in their absence council took up the challenge and facilitated this major development for Stratford.
It now poses the question for our next Long Term Plan, do we have enough residential sections being developed by the private sector and if not, should council look to do another residential subdivision?