The real value of a community
For the next 100 days southlandtimes.co.nz will follow newly elected Invercargill City Councillor Rebecca Amundsen.
She's not an unfamiliar face to people who live in Glengarry, or those who voted for her.
She's a mother, a landlord, a project leader and now a city councillor.
But this isn't just our project, it's yours too.
Get involved by posting comments, asking questions and answering polls each week as we follow Rebecca's first days in office.
Each week Rebecca will also write about her council musings.
Last week there was a house fire in Lithgow St. The burnt house was the second house that we lived in after we first came to Invercargill in 2001.
It was a former state house - a two-storey one - sandwiched between two other flats. We moved there because at that time we needed the cheapest possible accommodation because we were studying and living off the student allowance.
We had, of course, heard stories about this part of town but the area looked ok to us and we decided to not make a judgement based on rumour but to experience the place for ourselves. We knew if worse came to worse we could always move again.
All in all the house was great. It had four bedrooms so we used one for junk and another as a study. The only real bummer about it was that we couldn't get our queen sized bed base up the stairs so we had to resort to sleeping on a mattress only. But we were young and it didn't really bother us.
It was while we were living in this house that Invercargill really became home for us. Shortly after we moved in Ross and Julie and their family moved in next door to us. As true blue Southlanders they helped us to experience the best of Southland. They had horses and we would spend many weekends with them at Sandy Point horse riding - well actually I didn't ride, as much as I might want to, I am a feet on the ground kinda girl - but Phil and Andreas loved it.
We often shared meals together and when their daughter was old enough she became our babysitter. They showed us where all the best second hand shops were and they would often arrive home with bargains they had found that would fit us or our son. They were very generous with their time and they really did become our Invercargill family.
And I might add that the rumours about the area were wrong.
We never felt uncomfortable while we lived in Lithgow St and many of the people we meet while we lived there have remained friends. I might add this is why we continue to have such a strong connection to the Glengarry area.
So it was fantastic to read in the newspaper that the neighbourly-ness that Lithgow St had in 2001 when we lived there still exists. In a time of need neighbours and strangers alike stepped in to help. This is a sign of a strong community.
The council's aspiration for Invercargill is that it is an ''exciting, innovative, safe, caring and friendly city.'' I think there are plenty of people in Invercargill who care but sometimes we only see that demonstrated in a crisis.
In the coming months there will be opportunities for you to show you care about what the council does for this city.
There will be an opportunity to submit on the annual plan which is the council's guide on how it will spend your money in the coming year. You will also be able to submit on the Local Alcohol Policy, which gives the community the chance to have its say about how we can reduce alcohol harm.
There will be consultation on the inner city plans and a range of other things.
What I have noticed is that people don't realise that these opportunities are available to them or just how important it is to make the most of these opportunities. Often it is not until the opportunity has passed and decisions are being made that people take the chance to speak up.
And, unfortunately that can be too late.
I hope to help keep people informed about these opportunities through my Facebook page and regular ''councillor in a cafe'' chat sessions and I encourage you all to speak up as part of the process.
The Southland Times