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A warm Waitaki greeting to you.

As we pass the mid-point of February, and as I write this, Covid-19’s Omicron variant continues to edge its way closer to Waitaki.

As it does, we can be reassured that numerous plans have been put into place to protect our community and to ensure businesses can continue doing what they need to in order to serve our district.

To every single person involved in that work, thank you very much for what you are doing.

To the frontline workers who keep our supermarkets stocked, who keep our health services operating, and who ensure our most vulnerable people are taken care of, thank you for your dedication.

And to all of us, please remember that it’s often not the person serving you who makes the rules. Many people are doing what they can to keep themselves and others safe, so do remember to be kind and courteous as we get through these next stages of the pandemic.

An issue raised with me recently was, what does our council do to support our volunteers across Waitaki, especially those volunteers who often give many, many hours of their time and skills to make life for others even better in our awesome district?

The reality is that we offer many levels of support.

For a start, there are the various grants funds we have — the general community groups fund, creative communities grants to help artists of all types, the sport travel fund for youngsters to travel to sporting competitions, the heritage fund for owners of heritage buildings to help maintain and improve their buildings, the biodiversity fund to help landowners and organisations look after our environment and to plant more trees, and the Donald and Nellye Malcolm Trust, which also gives funding each year to community groups.

But there are other ways that we support groups such as funding to the East Otago High School to allow community use of their swimming pool; funds that help Mountain Biking North Otago maintain tracks for all bikers to use around North Otago and East Otago; funding to help the Kurow Island Committee maintain and improve the island recreational space, and so on.

Then there are the many organisations we support through free or subsidised use of land or buildings, such as those using Community House; the Hampden Community Energy group, as they get on with developing a new community hub for the township; Oamaru Steam & Rail as they carry out their popular activity around Oamaru Harbour; and the Waitaki Resource Recovery Trust which provides such a valuable service helping us recycle so much of our waste.

So while our council carries out many activities to benefit the Waitaki community, it is often the support given to the people and organisations on the ground that makes the extra difference. It is those volunteers who get on and make Waitaki what it is. The council’s role as an enabler is an important contributor to their work and we are always keen to see how we can help volunteers achieve even more.

Sometimes it may not be possible, but so many great results have often started with just a conversation.

After all, we are all in this together.

  • Gary Kircher is the Mayor of Waitaki