I ENJOYED a great day out in Marton on Sunday, attending the Samoan Independence Day celebrations, which were held at Centennial Park on a stunning Rangitikei day.
Marton has a strong and growing Samoan population, and mayor Andy Watson was keen to do something for the community to celebrate their cultural heritage and their significant contribution to the town and surrounding districts.
Independence Day is traditionally observed in Samoa on June 1 to acknowledge Samoa gaining independence from New Zealand 44 years ago.
The event began with a combined church service, and the range of activities and highlights for me that continued throughout the day included cultural performances, dancing, speeches, a myriad of colourful and vibrant outfits and a traditional umu (the Samoan version of our hangi).
The event was well attended with over 500 people soaking up the atmosphere. I understand there is interest in making it an annual day, which would be great.
The Government's further investment of more than $1.2 million in seven new projects relating to the upkeep and maintenance of the New Zealand Cycle Trail continues to benefit our region.
As part of the latest funding round, the Whanganui District Council will receive $300,000 for the Mountains to Sea trail.
This is in addition to the Budget 2016 announcement of Government funding for another $25 million over four years to both extend and link different sections of the NZ Cycle Trail.
The route of the Mountains to Sea trail encompasses mountains, native forest within two national parks, as well as the spiritual, cultural and historic highlights of the Whanganui River.
The latest investment comes from the fourth round of the Maintaining the Quality of the Great Rides Fund and priority has been given to proposals that aim to improve the safety and quality of these great rides, which are the premier aspects of the NZ Cycle Trail.
The Great Rides are used by thousands of people every day and have provided a significant boost to tourism, especially in the Rangitikei and Whanganui regions.
This funding will help ensure visitors can continue soaking up New Zealand's beautiful scenery in a safe and enjoyable way.
The use of the cycle trails by international and domestic visitors has seen significant growth with the Great Rides attracting more than one million users in 2015. Regional communities are also seeing increased numbers of visitors, with local economies experiencing positive spin-offs such as a growth in jobs and increased demand for accommodation and services.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all those who were named in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours. Both Whanganui and Rangitikei were well represented by men and women whose contributions to business, the arts, sport, education, cultural heritage and philanthropy were acknowledged and commended.