PARLIAMENT has risen for the year and Christmas is only a couple of days away.
At this time of year in particular, the sense of community in our region continues to both impress and inspire me.
We represent heartland rural and provincial New Zealand at its best.
This was clearly demonstrated in the aftermath of the devastating floods in June.
It has also been very much evident over the last couple of months as different pockets of the Rangitikei have held successful end-of-year celebrations to acknowledge outstanding contributions or achievement and Christmas parades to celebrate the festive season.
It's great that these events seem to grow in popularity every year.
Community-based events are increasing in popularity and attracting more people too.
The River Traders' Market is a regular fixture and a great example, while November's annual Marton Harvest Festival drew a really big crowd this year.
Other events that are growing in popularity every year include Anzac Day - a great expression of pride in our history; the Feilding Farmers' Day and the weekly Feilding Farmers' Market; the Hunterville Schemozzle; Taihape's Gumboot Day; Ohakune's Carrot Festival and the many cycling, running and walking-related events organised by communities throughout our region.
Christmas is a time of celebration. It's a time for family, fun and enjoying summer and the great outdoors.
It is also a time of year that puts a great deal of pressure on many of our families, and with this in mind we all need to keep an eye out for our neighbours.
The pressure caused by the extraordinary commercialisation of Christmas can be detrimental. We seem to have moved away from traditional celebrations that involved getting together with family and friends - and giving a little.
Of course Christmas has also become synonymous with the summer holidays and for many people it's a chance to reenergise and take a break from the weekly grind.
Though we should take time to remember those who don't get a break at this time of the year the people who keep our hospitals, our many essential services and our shops open, and the members of our Armed Forces who are stationed overseas. Nor should we forget the true meaning and spirit of Christmas, whatever our personal beliefs.
I'm certainly looking forward to a break to recharge the batteries, with next year promising to be every bit as busy as this year has been.
I hope you manage to have some time out this Christmas and an opportunity to catch up with family and friends.
Please stay safe these holidays, whether it is on the roads, under the sun or in the water - and all the best for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2016.