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Forward thinking . . . Members of 4Ward Waitaki (from left) confidence coach Lee Clark, multi-media specialist Derek Golding, Waitaki District councillor and writer Jim Hopkins and group convener Helen Jansen. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH

Finding a “new normal” for the Waitaki district is the mission of a group of locals who came together during the Covid-19 lockdown in order to devise a local recovery plan and vision for the future.

The name 4Ward Waitaki had been chosen to reflect its purpose, convener Helen Jansen said.

“We’ve got to have a vision about the new normal,” Ms Jansen said.

“We don’t want to go back to a normal we don’t want.”

The group was made up of “a collection of people from all walks of life”, including educators, farmers, engineers and entrepreneurs who met weekly, via Zoom. Anybody was welcome to join a mailing list and/or sit in on the meetings, Ms Jansen said.

The group wanted to find a way forward that would help the district develop in a sustainable, inclusive and resilient way.

“What are the the innovations that will make the future different? It’s the community’s future and we’ve been trying to find community answers.”

Although Waitaki appeared to have fared relatively well following lockdown, that didn’t mean people could become complacent, she said.

“Although it’s not difficult yet, it’s going to get more difficult,” Ms Jansen said.

Collaboration between town and district would be the key to developing the best way forward, she said.

“The choices we make today will decide where we go in the future.”

When the group began, there were Zoom discussions looking at future options like sustainable food production, promotion of the district, employment skills and lifelong learning, and encouraging innovation.

“There is much already going on in silos. The trick is to bring cohesion to the efforts, with a common focus.”

Ms Jansen said she had about 50 people on her email list interested in joining the initiative, and she invited anyone else interested to email her at helen@confidencecan.co.nz