Wanganui - this is your chance! - 8/09/2005by Mayor Michael Laws
There are not too many times that Wanganui has a chance to shine on the national stage. So when we get the opportunity, we need to seize them with both hands!
And boy, have we ever got that chance over the next few months! Three extraordinary events that will attract people to Wanganui – but, more importantly, make you feel great about living here.
The first is the Jimmy Barnes Concert.
This will be hosted at Cooks Gardens on Boxing Day and complement the traditional Cemetery Circuit motorbike races.
Yeah, but Wanganui people are dreadful when it comes to supporting local music events. I remember going to see great Kiwi rockers Shihad a couple of years back – and there were only a couple of hundred people present. You could have exploded a neutron bomb at Wanganui City College – and harmed no-one.
In fact, most music promoters bypass this city because of a lack of pre-sales. And then the locals complain when those concerts pass them by. The fault is our own. So – please – buy your tickets early this year. They cost $55 or $110 the double and they'll make outstanding Xmas gifts as well.
The second event will be the River Queen Premiere.
I'd like to say we had the world premiere – as originally promised by the producers – but the Toronto Film Festival scooped that priority. A similar fate befell Invercargill with their 'The World's Fastest Indian' premiere. Mind you, their show is going to cost two or three times what we're planning.
I have to say that most film premieres are snobby, exclusive events. That is not our plan with 'River Queen'. Rather we want it to be a party that all of Wanganui enjoys – and that consideration will drive all council's planning.
The third event is the Mayoral Mile which will happen at Cooks Gardens on Saturday, 11 February 2006. It is a combination of three themes – a commemoration of Peter Snell's world record run in 1962 at Cooks Gardens, a recreational event for Wanganui people and a showcase for this city to the rest of New Zealand.
I am donating $10,000 to the event – but lots of Wanganui businesses will be donating prizes. Diary this date now – it will be an all-family affair.
And on donations … I was delighted to contribute $3,000 to Stayz's Latin Dance Experience. Stayz does a fantastic job teaching dance to children and youth in this city and also provides them with international travel and experience.
One of the great things about not taking the mayoral salary is that I can utilise such monies to seed or support new events in the city. It is not a large wad of cash – about $43,000 a year (the after-tax component) – but it can make a difference between an event getting off the ground, or not.
Council has appointed both a new Chief Executive and a new Deputy CEO to replace our soon-to-be-retirees Colin Whitlock and Ian McGowan respectively. The announcement will be made to council staff tomorrow (Friday) and then be published in the 'Wanganui Chronicle' on Saturday morning.
I think council has chosen very wisely – a wonderful mix of private and public sector experience that will allow us to review and rejuvenate. Over 50 people applied for the top job including CEOs of three other councils and the heads of two government agencies.
Finally, just a personal word. I had my grandson Jack and daughter Rachel up from Dunedin over this past weekend. It was fantastic to introduce 9-month old Jack to his 8-month old aunty Lucy!
Leo and I took lots of snaps of the two of them playing together and I'll post a couple in the next week or so. The whole weekend confirmed again how important family is – and how life is made up of simple pleasures.
That is my ultimate vision for Wanganui – a community that welcomes and strengthens families – Mums and Dads, kids, grandparents, whanau. This city will ultimately be judged on the quality of life we deliver to our own people – and that has been and will be my major focus as your mayor.
Talk to you next week!