OPINION: As this will be my last column before Christmas I'd like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a relaxing New Year.
I'd also like to congratulate the Manna Christian Bookshop in Spey St for reminding us that Christmas means a little more than frantic shopping, Santa Claus and over- eating. If you want to escape from the commercialisation and consumption that has almost overshadowed the birth of Jesus then you can be photographed with a very realistic rustic replica of the Manger.
Another event that reflected the true spirit of Christmas was the Music for the Philippines fundraising concert, organised by Alice Fraser and her crew of musical volunteers.
From a similar perspective it has also been a great Christmas for Invercargill and Southland.
A present from the Invercargill Licensing Trust, the Community Trust of Southland, Southern Institute of Technology, the private sector, and without wanting to grandstand, I must add the Invercargill City Council, will be the stunning new x-factor, wow- factor, stadium.
The sporting, cultural, commercial and musical events held in this state-of-the-art 21st century facility will stimulate the local economy, enhance the status of our region and enrich our individual lives. Another collective Christmas gift we all received was the 2013 Census results. Who could possibly argue about the stunning success of a 2.7 per cent increase in our population and an increase of $6300 in our medium yearly income, which was $1000 above the national average. After being the fastest declining city in New Zealand and Australia for 30 years we can all feel proud of the part we have played in rebuilding this city. About 70 per cent of us own our own homes, business confidence is increasing, our infrastructure is in relatively good shape and we can all feel confident about our future.
Despite the huge successes of local events, the Census and the stadium, it's the smaller activities and promotions that fly under the radar that excite me just as much.
Having two graduation ceremonies for Southern Institute of Technology, because there are so many successful students we simply cannot fit them all into the 1000-seat Civic Theatre, may not achieve any national publicity but locally it is of huge significance. I'm often the guest speaker and usually have 20 minutes to express my views on life's challenges and opportunities to graduating students. This year I'll have 4.5 minutes and 10 minutes if I'm lucky.
Another success story that few people have heard of was not only Time magazine singing our praises regarding the Burt Munro Challenge, but this month's Listener (Dec 7-13)
telling the story of new arrivals from Auckland, Christa and Brad Inglis-Topp, who are spending $90,000 renovating their heritage home as well as building four retirement homes.
They were thrilled that the Invercargill City Council didn't charge development contributions, which amount to $20,000-$80,000 in Auckland, and they love our relaxed lifestyle.
Yet another fantastic good news story was the visit by Elizabeth- Esther Collins and her friend Alison Silcock I received via my former Dancing with the Stars partner Rebecca Nicholson. Rebecca is now a school teacher. Two Auckland Schools suffered arson attacks and she wanted me to offer an item for a charity auction. I offered the 'experience' of being honorary Mayor of Invercargill for a day. Elizabeth- Esther Collins and Alison Silcock's bid of $7000 won them the 'prize', so they decided to stay a couple of days.
Because of the fabulous hospitality received at the Balmoral Lodge Motel they ended up staying nine days, purchased four paintings from the City Gallery and had day trips to the Catlins, Te Anau, Riverton and Stewart Island.
They described their experience as the holiday of a lifetime.
It's hard to guess the economic value of such Southern adventures, but in terms of promotion such unknown visits are worth their weight in gold,
Have a wonderful Christmas everyone and a fantastic New Year.
Tim Shadbolt is the mayor of Invercargill
- The Southland Times