Wanganui Chronicle

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I WAS both proud and humbled last week by our region's collective response to the very real threat of significant and widespread flooding.

For many it must have seemed that they had just got over the destruction wreaked by the 2015 floods of the Whanganui, Whangaehu and Turakina rivers. The good thing is it was clear that we've learned a lot over the last couple of years and it showed.

The decision to declare a state of emergency when early indications suggested water levels in all three catchments would surpass 2004 and 2015 levels was the right one. All the indicators - including the weather forecast, hydrologists' reports and readings taken from specific sites on the affected rivers were predicting a significant event.

The response of mayors Hamish McDouall in Whanganui and Andy Watson in Marton, with their respective councillors, civil defence personnel and hosts of volunteers, was outstanding.

Similarly, our defence forces, business owners, farmers, residents and just about everyone, pitched in to ensure that throughout the district we were as they say, prepared for the worst while at the same time hoping for the best. The sense of community spirit was amazing.

The Marton Harvest Festival, which was held at the end of March, was a great success and another fine example of the community spirit that's alive and well in this part of the world.

The Harvest Festival certainly reflects Marton's diverse and vibrant community.

Over the years it has grown to become a very popular event, one that celebrates Marton's history, heritage, culture and identity as a rural New Zealand town. This year there were 100 or so quality stalls, plus plenty of music, activities, food and fun. It was a great day out.

Congratulations to Cath Ash from Project Marton and her team for putting it all together.

I was back in Marton at the beginning of last week to attend the McGruers' 100 Years Celebrations. What a remarkable achievement for a family business that has continued to serve its community across two centuries, and indeed two millennia. Its commitment to service and to the people of Marton and the surrounding area is a credit to them, and it's the reason they are still in business after all these years.

Thanks to Mayor Watson for cutting the ribbon - and, of course, to Peter and Marion Scott for their ongoing service to this town and our community.

Marton is a great town and it was wonderful to see past and present, rural and urban coming together at two very special events. It was also great to witness that same sense of community spirit prevail when both Whanganui and Rangitikei were forced to declare a state of emergency.

On Friday, I'm attending a powhiri to welcome the start of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Parewahawaha Marae in Bulls.

The building and fundraising for the marae began in 1946, and it took more than 21 years to complete. It was officially opened on the April 15, 1967 by the Maori Queen Dame Te Atairangikaahu. Since then they have shared their history, knowledge, culture and language with all who have visited their marae. It's a very special place and I'm looking forward to it.