OPINION: 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.
As we speak I am on a plane to Palmerston North with my oldest son Andreas.
We are heading to Whanganui for Easter to visit all my family - grandparents, uncles and aunts and cousins.
It's been a few years since we have visited Whanganui, in fact the last Andreas was there it was still called Wanganui. But that is not the only change Whanganui has undergone.
I left Whanganui about 16 years ago and I am always impressed with how much it has changed in this time.
Around the time that I left some changes had been made to the main street Victoria Avenue. The polytechnic was also developing and growing.
The Whanganui River, while I lived there, was never something the community was proud of. In fact I recall that it was often commented that the Whanganui River was upside down because it was so brown.
And while at school we would give the rowers a hard time about falling into the sewer full river.
People seem to have moved on from that now though and there has been some amazing developments down by the river including a walkway, sculptures, river market, modern information centre and art gallery, paddle steamer and I believe a tram is also planned.
This river area seems to have developed into a popular hub.. Add to this Whanganui's other tourism features - Durie Hill Tower, Kowhai Park, Virginia Lake, the museum and art gallery along with the development of a wide range of art studios that are regularly open to the public.
Through its polytechnic Whanganui was able to develop a unique feature out of its glass blowing course which may well have been a catalyst for the growth in all types of art studios in the area.
It seems to me the transformation that has occurred in Whanganui is the sort of thing we need to see happening in Invercargill - the creation of a hub area and the build up and promotion of our assets.
So what does a hub need to have? My observation not only in Whanganui but also other places I have visited is that there are three common factors. One is green open spaces and areas for children. This seems to make the areas family friendly.
Another vital component is cafés. Not just one cafe, but several, with options for sitting outside or inside.
Finally they seem to have things of interest to see or look at, like artwork, historical information or items or maybe craft and gift shops.
Another thing I have noticed is that these hubs are not necessarily in the heart of the retail area or even where the retail areas are.
Now I am not claiming to be an expert in urban design or anything like that, I am just making an observation of what I have seen in both Whanganui and other parts of the country.
And I make this observation because I wonder how and where Invercargill could create its hub? We have a range of great assets including Queens Park which might just fit the bill.
What could be the catalyst for it? Will it be a museum redevelopment? The development of a performing arts centre? The growth of SIT?
I also believe we need to be prepared to be open minded and a bit courageous in listening to the community and working with the community. I have said before that I am a bit of an idealist and an opportunist.
So when I hear people with big ideas, I don't like to dismiss them. Even if the idea is crazy expensive, impractical and not likely to happen.
The main reason I don't like to dismiss the idea is because you never quite know where these ideas might lead.
And you should never underestimate the power that passionate people have. Margaret Mead made this very well used statement that is still very true - "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Anyway I am going to enjoy the next few days in Whanganui with my first born, catching up with family I haven't seen in a while. I hope you all have a safe and happy Easter.
- The Southland Times
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