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Meri Kirihimete and happy holidays Porirua!


Season’s greetings from (left to right) Cr Izzy Ford, Cr Euon Murrell, Cr Josh Trlin, Cr Faafoi Seiuli, Mayor Anita Baker, Cr Moze Galo, Cr Kylie Wihapi, Cr Nathan Waddle, Cr Geoff Hayward, Cr Mike Duncan and Cr Ross Leggett.

When the curtains finally closed on 2020, I think many of us hoped and expected that the trauma of that year would be little more than a speck in the rear vision mirror by this time.

With vaccines on the horizon, it was reasonable to expect something other than the Covid-19 pandemic would be the main subject of the 2021/2022 summer barbecue chatter. Sadly it was not to be, as the Delta variant significantly increased the threat level, forcing more lockdowns, mandates and restrictions.

The Wellington region got off lightly compared to Auckland, Waikato and the Far North, but we still lived in a state of perpetual anxiety that the virus would find its way here before enough of us were fully vaccinated.

In last year’s final column, I singled out frontline health and essential services workers for their sterling efforts, as well as the many volunteers across Porirua who reached out to help their neighbours and the wider community. The same goes for 2021, with many of those same people working through exhaustion along the way. Many thanks to them.

As you may be aware, Porirua and Hutt City embarked on a race to a 90% vaccination rate. It’s my sad duty to report that the Hutt beat us to the post, although the competition helped inspire a number of innovative grassroots approaches that lifted the rate in both cities.

The competition also involved a bet between Hutt City Mayor Campbell Barry and myself – the loser would have to sing in public, not something Campbell or I are noted for, or remotely comfortable doing. Thankfully, a number of my Council colleagues joined in the effort, and some of you may have had the misfortune of hearing the end product. Adele faces no threat from us, but it was all in good fun.

Another consequence of this long pandemic is that many people are feeling understandably frustrated. In some cases, this is translating into anger, mistrust and resentment, often directed at public institutions and, in very personal ways, at elected officials. I think it’s really important for local democracy that we keep this in check.

As my colleague Euon Murrell wrote earlier this year: “Once you assume the worst of everyone you disagree with, you have stopped listening. Compromise becomes impossible, and bitterness will keep growing on all sides”. That’s not the climate we want in the lead up to next year’s local body elections because it will cause a lot of people to just opt out of voting altogether, and discourage people from putting their hand up to stand for election.

Despite these stressful times, the city is in good shape. For the most part, local Porirua businesses have survived and thrived. Other indicators like unemployment are also heading in the right direction. Suburban shopping centres are performing strongly and local business start-ups are on the rise. This latter indicator tells me that many people used the lockdowns as a chance to reimagine their career paths, opting to ditch the daily commute in favour of working from, or closer to, home. The days of so-called dormant suburbs are numbered, and this trend promises even more vibrant neighbourhoods.

I’d like to extend thanks to my Council colleagues, who have worked in a constructive and collegial way again the year. Thanks also to our hard-working and dedicated Council staff and contractors right throughout the organisation.

Finally, I hope you and your family have an enjoyable festive season and a restful start to the New Year.

21 Dec 2021